walking with coffee

May 23, 2012 at 8:40 am | | literature, nerd, science@home

I love this paper: H. C. Mayer and R. Krechetnikov. Walking with coffee: Why does it spill? Phys. Rev. E 2012, 85, 046117.

In our busy lives, almost all of us have to walk with a cup of coffee. While often we spill the drink, this familiar phenomenon has never been explored systematically. Here we report on the results of an experimental study of the conditions under which coffee spills for various walking speeds and initial liquid levels in the cup. These observations are analyzed from the dynamical systems and fluid mechanics viewpoints as well as with the help of a model developed here. Particularities of the common cup sizes, the coffee properties, and the biomechanics of walking proved to be responsible for the spilling phenomenon. The studied problem represents an example of the interplay between the complex motion of a cup, due to the biomechanics of a walking individual, and the low-viscosity-liquid dynamics in it.

Genius. Here’s a great figure from the paper:

Fun stuff. It would be especially cool if they designed a new cup shape to minimize coffee oscillations.


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  1. Can you say Ig Nobel?

    Comment by Jordan — May 24, 2012 #

  2. […] Everyday Scientist, there’s a paper from Phys. Rev. E on the physics of coffee spilling from a cup.  From the […]

    Pingback by » The Science of Storing Liquids Will and Beyond — June 10, 2012 #

  3. There’s always the nuclear option never-spill solution. Get a gigantic mug, then fill it up about halfway. Of course I have the big mug, but I fill it all the way up, making a spill an even bigger problem. :-)

    Comment by austin — July 20, 2012 #

  4. I can say Ig Nobel: http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2012

    Comment by sam — September 24, 2012 #

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