Monday, April 22, 2013

Cat Physics 599 Graduate Seminar

My lovely and talented wife has posited The Law of Open Portals:

"When presented with any kind of open doorway or window, cats will be irresistibly drawn through the portal whether the feline wishes to go or not. This force does not appear to affect either people or objects, only cats."

Duty Calls by xkcd       

alternative textNow this proposition is clearly false. It is false because there are experiments that contradict it. A sample:
  1. A cat sitting outside a door, apparently waiting anxiously to enter, will in fact stare, nonplussed, into the open portal, feeling no force at all. 
  2. Dogs. They are neither people nor mere objects, but somewhere in between. Nonetheless, dogs only see one direction for any given door: they are drawn to the side they are not supposed to be on. My three year old daughter, who is a person, and who often pretends to be a dog, exhibits the same behavior. Does this mean something?
  3. If true, this proposition would imply that cats oscillate across the threshold of an open door.  Whenever they crossed they would be pulled back. Ok, that happens; but it doesn’t ALWAYS happen. 

Point is, the world is complicated. Which is why pretty much every graduate program has at least one first year course that might have been named “Awful Truths about the World”, had the University been inclined to honesty. Christopher Columbus, genocidal super-villain: graduate topic. Calculus of Variations: graduate topic. You get the idea.

Another of these terrible truths is Murphy’s First Law of Biology.
"Under any given set of environmental conditions an experimental animal behaves as it damn well pleases."

And so it is with cats. It’s just that sometimes, perhaps often, what pleases the cat is messing with your head. So when they dash through that door, it isn’t that they want to be on the other side, per se. It’s that they want to bask in the sweet glow of your consternation, and being on the wrong side of that door is a means to that end. Miss Bear is similarly motivated. In the physics biz, we call this Grand Unification.


  1. Totally. Meowing to come in, go out, the freak doesn't know where he wants to be! haha

    1. Don't you just love it when they beg to go in/out and then sit there once the door is open? :D

  2. Mr. Snark:

    Addressing the concerns you raised, in order.

    1. It is impossible to surmise whether the cat feels the force and resists it as opposed to feeling no force at all. To know with certainty, one would have to be the cat.

    2. Obviously, you missed the title of the article, which was CAT PHYSICS. If I had been writing about the natural laws of the universe apply to canines, then I would have labeled it DOG Physics 101.

    3. Jake has been observed to oscillate. If you watch closely, you can see the ripple in the fur as it moves up and down his mid-section.

    Additionally, Miss Bear has repeatedly been demonstrated to defy the laws of conventional physics. For instance, it is absolutely impossible for one small child to attain the level of matter destruction to which she aspires. Yet, she exists.