Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Top Five Uses For Cats

"I simply can't resist a cat, particularly a purring one.  They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside the girl you love, of course." - Mark Twain

"In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this." - Terry Pratchett

"A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime." - Mark Twain

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

"When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction." - Mark Twain

"Those who'll play with cats must expect to be scratched." - Miguel de Cervantes

My occasional snarky comments to the contrary, I suppose cats do have usefulness.  Here are the top five reasons I believe so:

5.  Endless source of cute kitty pics

Don't believe me?  Why, then, you must not frequent Facebook.  I'm not sure how I could bear to allow an entire day to pass if not for the occasional cute kitty picture, often accompanied by a cute caption like "I shall eat your entrails, human" or some such.

But seriously, cats do have an incredible propensity for striking the cutest of poses at just the right moment.  Granted, they're probably only doing so to lure young ones closer to their claws, but hey, on Facebook they're cute.

4.  Wonderful source of wise quotations

Just look at the top of this screen for proof.  That, or Google "quotations about cats."   I barely scratched the surface in my own quote regurgitations; the available sources for cat quotes scratch far, far deeper than I ever could. 

3.  Training humans to be responsible

Kids across the world have been taught the importance of responsibility for years by putting them in the care of cats.  I've seen junior high girls who wouldn't stoop to washing a dish leap to the ongoing task of keeping kitty's dish clean and filled at the right time with the right stuff.

It's amazing.

Our daughter, to use a more specific example, made it through high school in the typical way.  By that, I mean that if she had to write more than a paragraph it was a chore.  Now she's looking at going to visit friends for a week or two, and she's written an entire page of cat care instructions.

An entire page.

Included in the instructions are how much to feed her little furry baby, as well as a request that we continue her pattern of playing with the little kitty regularly, once in the morning and once at night.  Of course, the morning playtime usually, according to the instructions, happens between noon and one.  Gotta love teenagers, right?

2.  Keeping puppies honest for 9500 years

I'd always heard that ancient Egypt, a few thousand years ago, was the birthplace of cat domestication, an assumption that is apparently based on the artwork showing humans placing the felines in their rightful place (being worshipped, specifically) from way back then in that region.  I just read, though, that in 2004 they excavated a 9500-year-old grave in Cypress that had a human and a cat quite close together, apparently signifying a human-cat relationship that far back.

When I first read of the find, I wondered if it couldn't just be proof of a cat eating a human and then dying of indigestion, or vice versa.  But it turns out that the remains appear to be deliberately interred together, and frankly, a cat person going extra lengths to be buried with his beloved feline doesn't sound all that out of normal to me.

So yeah, now when my Chihuahuas are made to toe the line by our daughter's cat, I can't help but remind them that they belong to a long, long line of cat rule.  Sorry, puppies.

1.  Keeping physicists happy

When Schroedinger was designing his thought experiment that would turn the world of theoretical physics on its ears, did he pick a dog to go in his imaginary box of maybe-killing?  A turtle?  A parakeet?  A gecko?  No, he chose a cat, and for good reason, too.  You see, he knew--he must've known--that he was introducing a hidden quantum mechanical choice into the equation, and it would have pleased him.

To wit: in the explicit thought experiment, the experimenter presses a button which has a perfect fifty percent chance of either soundlessly killing the cat, or likewise soundlessly letting the cat live.  The fifty percent is called an Eigenvalue, named for the German writer of anti-cat poetry, Hermann Eigen.  Anyway, after pressing the button, the experimenter has to just live with the fact that the cat is neither, and both, alive and/nor dead, existing simultaneously in two Eigenstates ("live" and "dead") until the experimenter bravely opens the box to face either a now very angry feline or his very angry spouse, the now dead feline's servant. 

Neither Eigenstate is very Eigenpretty.  But it's a thought experiment, which means that the significant other doesn't really exist, nor does the actual feline, which because of this limitation can't actually claw the experimenter.

But here's the trick!  While this is a mere thought experiment, it's done by very real thought experimentalists, who are in turn going to be in a set of Eigenstates of emotion: joyful that the cat lived, grieved that the cat died, grieved that the cat lived, or joyful that the cat died.  After pressing the button, then, the observer finds an experimenter existing simultaneously in not one, not two, but four Eigenstates!

Yeah, that's a stretch, I guess.  But what about the six story rule?  You know, the rule that physicists will give you, the one that says cats dropped from more than six stories in height have a greater chance of surviving the fall than those dropped from significant distance but fewer than six stories.  It's a terminal velocity thing, you see, related to the fact that cats achieve terminal velocity, and thus stop accelerating, and thus relax because they can no longer feel acceleration effects, at about six stories of drop.


Nobody I know has ever tried the six story thing, of course.  It's--well, it's kind of a thought experiment.

See what I mean, though?


PS--No, Eigen-anything wasn't really named after any particular German; I made that up.  It's actually taken from the German term signifying self.  And no, there's no proof that Schroedinger ever considered the effect his thought experiment would have an an actual observer--why would he?  He was a theoretical physicist.  Imagine Sheldon Cooper of the hit TV series, with a little bit less compassion.

1 comment:

  1. Nobody has tried it INTENTIONALLY, but they found it out by checking vet records in cities with skyscrapers.
    The first couple floors aren't too bad, then it gets worse, but then around six stories, the endings statistically improve and then hold steady all the way up to the poor penthouse cats. it's actually that they hit terminal velocity after about four stories or so. The "always land on their feet" thing? It applies, but up to about six stories of falling time, they're still sorting it out a bit and approximating. After the amount of falling time it takes to fall six stories, the cats have put themselves in the optimum cat falling stance, and so their odds go down until about the fifth floor, then back up and level off because after six stories, things can't really get any better or worse. There's a moral in that 7+ floor situation, I suppose. "Every precaution has been taken, every action has been done, there is nothing to do but wait, and this is still going to suck..."