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No. 111: May-Jun 1997

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Levitation And Levity!

New Scientist's "Feedback" page, our favorite source for remarkable insights into cosmic phenomena, noted recently that the magazine Omni had announced the winner of its "Theories" contest. The winning entry was revolutionary, to say the least. In the words of the inventor:

"When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet, and when toast is dropped, it always lands with the buttered side facing down. I propose to strap buttered toast to the back of a cat; the two will hover, spinning inches above the ground."

There is a deep profundity in this arrangement. S. Voss recognized immediately that a perpetual motion machine had been proposed. He set out to find a flaw. Somehow, energy was being supplied to keep the cat-toast armature turning. Voss observed that any practical cat-toast motor would have to be suspended over a very expensive carpet, for the simple reason that the probability of the toast landing buttered-side down is well known to be proportional to the cost of the carpet. (Linoleum is very poor in this application.) Furthermore. to maintain the machine's efficiency, the rug would have to be frequently cleaned of falling cat hairs. Carpet cleaning is energy-intensive, and it is here that energy must be supplied, thereby nullifying the perpetual-motion claim!

(Anonymous; New Scientist "Feedback" columns for October 19 and November 16, 1996)

From Science Frontiers #111, MAY-JUN 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987