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2010 Physics Nobel Prize for Invisible Cat Hammocks

Lightning strikes twice for Ig Nobel Award Laureate Andre Geim!

Along with his colleague and former grad student Konstantin Novoselov, Andre Geim has won the Nobel Prize for pioneering work the two performed on the arduous path towards an invisible hammock for cats (not a hammock for invisible cats, that would be crazy).

Bear in mind, we're not there yet. All Geim and Novoselov have done so far is find graphene, which in theory could be the ideal material for an invisible cat hammock, according to the Scientific Background provided by the Nobel Academy (I'm serious, see page 7).

Of course, cat hammocks are pretty high level applications, which I suppose is why the Academy chose to include them in the advanced scientific background for the prize rather than the more basic information for the general public.

According to the Nobel Academy document, if a one square meter hammock made of graphene were "tied between two trees you could place a weight of approximately 4 [kilograms] before it would break. It should thus be possible to make an almost invisible hammock out of graphene that could hold a cat without breaking. The hammock would weigh less than one [milligram], corresponding to the weight of one of the cat's whiskers." (Pardon me if this went over the heads of our less savvy readers.)

I'm sure Geim is pleased with the Nobel Academy's nod, but I will always think of him as the first person (along with Sir Michael Berry) to magnetically levitate a frog.

What concerns me is that the Nobel Prize may expose Geim to claims that his levitating frog experiments were fraudulent. Now I don't believe this for a moment, but surely if you can make an invisible cat hammock, an invisible frog hammock would be child's play. I'm certain his frogs were being held aloft by magnetic fields, as Geim and Berry claim, but I have to admit when I see videos like this one . . .

. . . I completely understand why you might think that it's a trick played by someone swinging a frog around in an invisible hammock made of graphene.

Listen folks, let's be reasonable. Geim and Novoselov didn't find graphene until 2004, but Geim started levitating frogs in 1997. He couldn't possibly be holding his frogs with invisible frog hammocks . . . unless he suspected that levitating frogs trumps finding really thin sheets of graphite. In which case, it would only be logical to keep their graphene discovery a secret long enough that no one would make the connection to the amazing floating frogs.

Of course, that would be ridiculous. It's not like he'd made an invisible cat hammock or anything - those are still still several months away, at least.


  1. A couple Anglo-Rooski scientists have won the Nobel Prize for creating a material even thinner than our president’s skin:

    You might not fully appreciate Graphene until you see Christina Hendricks in a bra made outta the stuff:

    Anyway, it’s good to see the Nobel Prize Committee has gone back to awarding the actual achievements of scientists rather than simply handing trophies out to politicians for their “potential”...


  2. I'd say an artsy girl like me who is seriously math disabled would never end up on a physics blog, but... I did, thanks to the magic of Facebook and friends who DO like physics and are mathy types. Anyway, this is a great post. I have two cats - I'm cheering on the invisible hammock!

  3. Heather, I have to agree. Invisible cat hammocks will be excellent. Finally, a Physics Nobel Prize for something I can use. Well at least something my cats can use.

  4. They levitated the frogs at the High Magnetic Field Lab. The frogs died.

  5. invisible cat hammocks...
    what will it be next...


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