Dropping 1,000 cats from 32km: How practical is that?

Our report yesterday into NASA's high-altitude, heavy-lift super pressure balloon (SPB) mission - lofted by a stadium-sized sandwich bag and weighing in at 1,000 cats - prompted the traditional provocative reader input. First up, since the SPB's orb is crafted from 22 acres of polyethylene film, swelling to a whopping 516,499 …

1. Determining hunger should be done using the calorific value of traditional stadium food. For football, that's a pie. We'll go with meat and potato as that's a classic.

A meat and potato pie contains approx 430kcal *. A ham sandwich contains 230kcal*, so each stadium goer would need a minimum of 1.8 sandwiches to sustain them.

* according to the first result on google for "calorific content in X"

1. contents may vary

A meat and potato pie contains approx 430kcal *

Most meat pies contain a lot of other things, many of which it's best not to contemplate

1. Re: contents may vary

Especially if they're sold by Dibbler.

2. Re: contents may vary

"Most meat pies contain a lot of other things"

well.....the chicken pies are supposed to contain cat, though round here I think its mainly seagull

1. Re: contents may vary

Cat, rabbit, OK, but seagull? Eeewww... Please tell us where you live, so we can avoid it.

2. "A meat and potato pie contains approx 430kcal"

Do you mean a named meat?*

*And by named, I don't mean "Fido".

1. @Kane

They were talking about 1,000 cats. What kind of meat do you think they had an excess of?

1. Re: @Kane

"They were talking about 1,000 cats. What kind of meat do you think they had an excess of?"

Well, if dropping 1,000 cats from 32km, I reckon they would have an excess of about...1,000? Including splashy bits?

However, I'm assuming you're commenting on the "Fido" reference. Here you go.

2. Cats are self-guided when it comes to lasers

So you get laser guidance for free. You just need to make sure you wiggle the laser dot a bit to keep their attention.

1. Re: Cats are self-guided when it comes to lasers

Except that cluster munitions have now been banned, so you would have to think of a different designation.

1. Re: Cats are self-guided when it comes to lasers

Somebody's got their collective nouns confused, surely these would be clowder munitions anyway?

If there's a treaty banning those I'd be amazed and then also have to admire the foresight of its authors.

3. Hunger determination

Several degrees of hunger have been observed in Scotland

1) Ah'm guttin - I have a pain in the midriff is it dinner time?

2) Ah could eat a scabby dug - I really am quite peckish is it time to eat?

3) Ah'm that hungry I'd eat a shit pie - I'm that hungry I'd even consider some fruit.

4) That pie wiz boggin' - I still ate it though!

None of these are quantitative and setting them in any particular order is dependent upon a variety of variables not least of which being the availability of deep fried pizza, which is likely to provoke the first three prior to consumption and the 4th post consumption.

1. Re: Hunger determination

@Efros

Translation note:

To transition this to East Coastish

1) replace all instances of "Ah" with "Eh"

2) replace all instances of "pie" with "peh"

3) replace "deep fried pizza" with "Farfir Bridie"

1. Re: Hunger determination

That's 'Purth' talk that is.

4. "And yes, the cats would all land on their feet, even from 33.5km."

But what if each cat has a slice of toast, buttered on one side only, strapped to its back with the butter upwards?

1. toasty

The cat shreds the strapping thus freeing the toast to land on its buttered side

2. You've just invented perpetual motion - hovering, rotating cats just waiting for their angular momentum to be harvested.

At least until the toast has gone cold and the butter has been absorbed into it and can't stain the carpet any more.

3. "each cat has a slice of toast"

1. I guess you'd also maybe need to throw a few dogs in (out?) as well, as "It's raining cats and more cats" doesn't quite have the same ring to it...

2. This post has been deleted by its author

4. No, the cats would not land on their feet

They'd land randomly, because they'd suffocate at 33.5 km and be either unconscious or dead when they reached the ground. The temperature at that altitude would also be a problem for them.

Unless you gave them feline sized spacesuits with oxygen tanks; then they'd be OK, but that might throw off their ability to land spread eagled which is what allows cats that fall from great heights to survive with only a few broken bones at most.

5. And this...

... is why I love El Reg. I can't find this sort of informative copy anywhere else on the interwebs.

1. Re: And this...

It sounds like something XKCD would address in a "What If?" piece.

1. Re: And this... 1000 cats?

Ahh, Bond Fans...

Pussy Galore...

I don't expect you to talk, Mr. Bond. I expect you to, erm, fly...

(OK, OK, OK, not EVEN close to Honor Blackman...)

She looked at me then imitated a clock at 3 o'clock by cleaning herself.

7. Anyone that can

herd 1000 cats in any direction, can do anything they put their mind to... I once had 4 cats, and the only way to get their attention was to open a tin of food. Something about that crack-snap of the lid....

1. Re: Anyone that can

Which is unfair if you think about it.

Cats have a myriad ways of getting our attention.

Live presents that you wish were dead.

Using you as a landing pad from the window sill at 4.30 am

Destroying various parts of the furnishings.

Being cute.

Being aggresive.

Making any kind of noise.

Purring.

Interrupting anything you are doing by walking through/on it and then just sitting there. (usually computer, book, paper, your food)

Being sick.

Requiring vetinary assistance.

What do we get? Opening a tin and a laser pointer.

1. Re: Anyone that can

All too true.

I was wondering, as an aside, whether growing a field of catnip to the side of a valuable target would be the equivalent of missile toppling.....

8. Opportunity ...

... to find out how high a frozen dead cat bounce is from that height given the starting temperature ?

1. Frozen cats

This raises another important safety issue.

What happens if one of these over chilled moggies is ingested by a hungry jet engine?

Would it purr, burp or fart?

Would it be able to sick up the hairball?

Would the average feline fit in the standard chicken hurler?

What is the speed of a cat in a vacuum?

So many imponderables ....

Enquiring minds need to know.

1. Re: Frozen cats

If they did this four times, would there be 4000 cats in Blackburn, Lancashire?

9. Laser Guided

Surely the question with laser guidance is would the cats eat the sharks or would the sharks eat the cats?

1. Re: Laser Guided

> would the cats eat the sharks or would the sharks eat the cats?

Neither. The cats would exert a sufficient Cute Force (several megaKittens-worth) such that the sharks would obey their every whim.

1. Re: Laser Guided

Of course, now it becomes clear. All these years we've had the relationship between the evil genius in his volcano lair and the white Persian he's stroking entirely backwards...

Should have known who really ruled that crater.

1. Re: Laser Guided

Of course, now it becomes clear. All these years we've had the relationship between the evil genius in his volcano lair and the white Persian he's stroking entirely backwards...

Since cats only have staff, I always thought that was obvious to even the most casual of observers. The guy stroking the cat is merely the leader of the rest of the cat staff.

10. Definitely Friday and getting on for beer oclock

Class article. Also playmobile or it didn't happen.

OT can we have a real ale beer icon as well?

11. you don't need optical lasers to guide cats: they have their own internal heat-seeking targeting system. Cats always run to the warmest object, so all you need is a cheap infra-red to warm things up

12. The idiom demands...

The next step is to coral a gigantic number of pigeons to drop the cats among.

1. Re: The idiom demands...

And an equal number of dogs for the cats to rain down with...

1. Re: The idiom demands...

I like it. A sort of binary DOG/CAT weapon. Keep the two components separate and it's relatively safe to transport and store. Once combined though.....

2. Re: The idiom demands...

Just do it above Crufts or some other dog show...

13. Acceleration pedantry

"Imagine if you will a thick blanket of 1,000 wailing felines, claws deployed, descending at an immense rate of knots as you desperately attempt to defend yourself with a garden hose."

<pedant>

knots - as any fule no - is already a rate i.e. nautical miles per hour, so a "rate of knots" is an acceleration - which is accurate, well for the initial part of the drop until terminal velocity is reached anyway - in any case it's g or 68,579 kn/h (which - I'm surprised to find - does appear to qualify as "immense" :) )

</pedant>

Kudos for "kilocat" and also for bringing "kilokitten" to a wider public!

1. Re: Acceleration pedantry

Don't forget that millikitten is a measure of cuteness, whereas a kilocat is just 1000 cats

1. Re: Acceleration pedantry

This is El Reg. Whilst I'm aware a kilometre is 1000 metres a kilobyte is 1024 so how many cats in a klilocat?

1. Re: Acceleration pedantry

Properly speaking, 1024 bytes is a kibibyte. 1024 cats is a kibblecat.

2. Re: Acceleration pedantry

No one has been able to keep them still long enough to count.

2. Re: Acceleration pedantry

" a "rate of knots" is an acceleration"

no its knot. Its like saying "high rate of speed", except by saying "knots" to some extent you are defining what you are speeding in: aircraft or ship

With a name like Trubshaw I would have expected better: I take it Brian Trubshaw was no relative to you

3. Re: Acceleration pedantry

Knots is a distance originally used by navies. It did involve a knotted rope. So, technically "rate of knots" is correct. There is however the speed "knots" which is "Knots per Hour" or in the "duldrums".. Knots-per-Fortnight".

Thank <\$Deity> that no-one used the term "parsecs"....

1. Re: Acceleration pedantry

" There is however the speed "knots" which is "Knots per Hour" or in the "duldrums".. Knots-per-Fortnight""

wrong!!!!!

A knot is one nautical mile per hour as is in itself a unit of speed.

A knot is NOT a unit of distance

"Knots per hour" is an invalid term as "knot" already implies distance per unit of time

1. Re: Acceleration pedantry - x 7

The usage of "knot" does imply distance per unit of time, however it is shorthand for "knots per hour". It does not invalidate "knots per hour" as a term. In the days when streaming the log and counting the knots and fathoms run off before the 28 second timer ran out the two terms could be, and were, used interchangeably.

"[When the wind has a relative velocity of some 40 knots per hour]"

Lieutenant W Gordon RN, The Economy of the Marine Steam Engine, 1845.

In this modern age of impeller driven speed measurement and GPS the usage has made the knot the standard term, however the ultra-pedant should mention that the modern usage should be "nautical miles per hour". The knot is a slightly shorter distance than a nautical mile (although the nautical mile distance is dependent on which country you are from anyway).

1. Re: Acceleration pedantry - x 7

"however it is shorthand for "knots per hour"."

sorry, you're talking BS, whatever Lt Gordon may have said. The simple fact is that the knots weren't measured over an hour - if you did there would have been quite a lot of them. The fact is that they streamed the rope over a 30 or 28 second period, and counted the number of physical knots pulled off on the rope during that period. A speed of "one knot" thus corresponds to one physical knot on the rope per 28 (or 30) seconds (or roughly 128 knots per hour based on the 28 second timing).

The simple fact is, "Knots per hour" is an invalid term. Always was, always will be.

2. Re: Acceleration pedantry - x 7

"Lieutenant W Gordon RN, The Economy of the Marine Steam Engine, 1845."

FWIW Lt Gordon's book was reviewed in "The Artizan, 1845, Volume 3, pp99-100" and the reviewers thoroughly lambast Gordon's knowledge and abilities.

The undertone of the review is that Gordon hadn't a clue as to what he was talking about. When you think about it, one would hardly expect a lowly Lieutenant to be an authority on steam engines.

14. "kettle of marsupials." : Should read "billy of marsupials"

That is all.

1. Yeah, nice one.

1. Or possibly Bruce, depending on the marsupial in question?

15. how big are the cats going to be?

I don't fancy the idea of this one landing on my head

http://bit.ly/1V1Fq10

or this one

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/E5vkj3bIVr8/hqdefault.jpg

16. And would they all land on their feet?

It depends on whether or not they had buttered (preferably lightly salted) toast strap to their backs.

17. Russians are rumoured to be testing

A 50 Megacat version...

I also wonder if it makes a Meeeeeooooooowwwww noise as it falls?

1. Re: Russians are rumoured to be testing

Chairman Meow tried that in the 60s....

2. Re: Russians are rumoured to be testing

Putin may be one volcano short of a Bond villain but even he knows the damage one of these filled with drop bears would do. M.A.D at work.

18. "Normally cuteness is measured in MilliKittens"

I'm not a cat person. I don't particularly see the point of them. Is this why I don't really appreciate cuteness ?

1. MilliKittens

Often abbreviated to Mittens, of course...

But what is the safe human tolerance before chocolate/tissues/babies/new storage infrastructure causes failure of sanity or worse!?

1. Re: MilliKittens

I don't know what the safe human tolerance is but my wife can't deal with a youtube video of two baby owls and a kitten. About 2500 millikittens I reckon.

2. Re: MilliKittens

Dunno. But for me it's the point where the milliKittens outweigh the fear of my wife finding out I've just got two more cats[1]..

[1] Fortunately for me I've never been exposed to a high enough milliKitten field to trigger my slow death. Yet..

19. What I want to know...

...is what would happen if they were Schrodinger's Cats? Would they fall down or up? Would they even be there at all? And if they were dead when they started, would they be alive when they landed?

1. Re: What I want to know...

Yes.

20. "Dropping 1,000 cats from 32km"

Never mind how practical it is - let's get it done. It#s a good start.

(Not a cat fan).

1. not a cat fan

Booooo!

please report to the nearest police station for psch evaluation and watchlist certification

1. Re: not a cat fan

Shh!

he is just the person "they" are looking for...

2. Re: not a cat fan

I expected the thumbs down... :-)

But if you've ever seen a cat playing with a deliberately-crippled mouse or baby rabbit (I've seen both) then you'd get where my loathing of the filthy creatures comes from.

And don't start with the "It's only their nature" stuff. I *know* it's only their nature - that's why they're loathesome.

1. Re: not a cat fan

> it's only their nature - that's why they're loathesome.

Considerably nicer than humans. At least cats don't torture other cats just because they have a different coat colour.

2. Re: not a cat fan

It's their nature because it's instinctive behaviour. They do it for practice, to improve their hunting skills.

Whereas humans do it deliberately, just for the sake of cruelty.

I think you're intent on wiping out the wrong species for exactly opposite the reason you're citing.

I'll not try to claim there's anything wrong with your being disgusted by their actions, but please don't play the moral superiority card.

1. Re: not a cat fan

They do it for practice, to improve their hunting skills.

And because the adrenaline produced tenderizes the meat, which is probably very important when attempting to eat a scrawny mouse.

I think you're intent on wiping out the wrong species for exactly opposite the reason you're citing.

+1

1. Re: not a cat fan @ ac

"And because the adrenaline produced tenderizes the meat, which is probably very important when attempting to eat a scrawny mouse."

So you're suggesting that it's a good idea to torture the moggie first to make it more tender.

Thanks. That's the kind of really useful information that needs to be more widely known.

3. Re: not a cat fan

"But if you've ever seen a cat playing with"

Sorry, my cat detester went into overload already with the crap in my garden.

Have an upvote anyway.

3. Re: not a cat fan

> psch evaluation and watchlist certification

AKA "reprocessing".

The fact that the station sells a variety of meat-flavoured[1] snacks is entirely coincidental.

[1] Sort of tastes like pork apparently.

2. I gather they can limit their terminal velocity to the point they can survive the fall. Sorry, won't do what you want.

3. Better to drop cats then to drop dropbears.

21. The real question is, are these Cheshire cats or Schrodinger cats? The outcome of dropping them would be very different.

1. cat types

You'll be grinning from the other side of your face when they land, or not.

2. Cheshire = Schroedinger

Hmmnn.. I suspect yer Cheshire cats and yer Shroedinger Cats are actually instances of the same particle (let's call it a felon,pronounced fee-lon) at different points in time. Bit like the thing with neutrinos bouncing between three different states that foxed us for so long re solar neutrino output.

You see a cat (state 1, domestic moggie felon) which then slowly vanishes, leaving a grin behind (state 2 Cheshire cat felon) and then inexplicably re-appears inside a locked wardrobe angrily demanding food (state 3, Shroedingers cat felon).

Consider - the particle has a long life and decays slowly from one state to the other, so it must be massive, and, compared to yer average proton, a felon is absolutely gigantinormous - about domestic moggie sized in fact. The collision of two felons usually causes them to bounce apart, but occasionally the energy involved cause the expulsion of sub-particles, let's call them kitons, which drain the energy of the parent felon, and gain mass as they slow down. Which suggests they are, in some sense, superluminal, maybe its their charm quotient that's superluminal? But it'd also explain how they can have been lounging on the sofa you just got up from, but mysteriously appear in the kitchen ahead of you without having actually overtaken you on the way. It's all classic Quantum, guv, I swear it is.

1. Re: Cheshire = Schroedinger

Charm Quotient?! That's the old imperial unit, roughly equivalent to cuteness. Charm Quotient is measured in smiles per minute, and it's very Victorian. Cuteness is measured in millikittens.

1. Re: Cheshire = Schroedinger

@anthonyhedgedus - I think one of us is slightly confused (and it might very well be me) but i was merely meaning to imply that the evidence is that as a cat can disappear from spot A and reappear in spot B faster than light can cover the distance between them, that this is evidence of Quantum being involved, indeed the Uncertainty principle visible on a macroscopic scale, and as we know that felons consist mostly of Charm quarks (with an admixture of Strange, Beauty and Top quarks for good measure), I think this argues for Felons demonstrating that Charm quarks are superluminal and thus responsible for the felons strange (ironically) behaviour. Going backwards in time that fast so as to appear at point B at the moment that point A is left obviously makes the felons hungry, unstable, and absent being fed by human minions, unstable and viscious.

That's my theory, and I would welcome your considered opion of this, esteemed colleague. I do agree, of course, that yer actual Cuteness factor of yer average felon is best measured in mill-kittens, goes without saying, does that.

1. Re: Cheshire = Schroedinger

if cuteness is measured in millikittens, is aggression (typical of so many feral moggies) measured in maxicats or megacats?

22. I'm disappointed.

Torpex isn't made out of boiled cat.

1. Re: I'm disappointed.

It's not? Then then where does catgut come from? I thought the two were related.

23. "Our report yesterday into NASA's high-altitude, heavy-lift super pressure balloon (SPB) mission - [...] - prompted the traditional provocative reader input.

Lester, you misspelled thoughtful, sensible and sophisticated observations, happily shared with the versant minds that made these pages their intellectual home.

24. DevOps back door

Surprised you folks haven't seen through the curtain - El Reg is promoting all this discussion as an alternate way of introducing DevOps one more time.

Don't believe me? That "container" of cats is purely virtualized, and can be reinstantiated on any server after suitable download (ha - a reference to the original idea).

Up next - a conference on Feline Microservices For Fun and Profit (for the cats, of course - they are the ones behind all of this).

1. Re: DevOps back door @ Steve Aubrey

NO NO NO.

It's the MICE that are behind all this.

25. Dropping Cats Not Recommended

While on the surface this seems like a clever idea, in practice it would be a disaster. Look what happened to DethKlok when they released a containers full of cats while performing a charity show. All good intentions, but the end result was not pretty...

26. a thick blanket of 1,000 wailing felines

So after the Iron and Aluminium Overcast, we now have the Furry Overcast as the next US Airborne deterrent.

27. Breathing at 30 km

We need to keep these poor kitties alive, and we need them to be awake for at least the last km or so before hitting the ground. Presumably they lifted with enough oxygen and in sufficient pressure. They won't black out until they are explosively expelled from their container. If we hyperoxygenate them just before expulsion, they will black out but not die, and they will reawaken below about 3 km. This should give them time to reorient and flatten out to maximize drag, which should slow them to a survivable terminal velocity. This system design minimizes the non-cat mass by using a single container for all the kitties instead of a some silly per-kitty pressure suit. The container itself is simply another balloon, full of kitties and oxygen. Use pure oxygen a lowish pressure during most of the flight to avoid oxygen poisoning, flood with pressure to 2 atm for 30 seconds to hyperoxygenate, flood with more oxygen to burst the balloon. Kitties free fall for 27 km, then wake up. I suspect that they will not be particularly happy when they reach the ground, but that's out of scope for the physical analysis.

PS: If typical feline terminal velocity is not survivable, we will need to fit them with wing suits and train them to use them. I foresee no problems whatsoever with this.

28. Forget "laser guided" I want cats with frickin lasers attached.

Even better - sharks with frickin lasers - and GoPros - dropped on Pyongyang - Sharknado 5.

29. Curiously enough,

the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was "Oh no, not again."

30. costs

these guys - http://sentintospace.com/ - sell a balloon capable of lifting 1.5kg to around 40km. So you'd have to use small cats

The balloons cost around £270 each. So 1000 cats would cost £270,000 plus the helium. I guess you could save on cost and use hydrogen - the cats aren't going to be complaining as they won't be wearing pressure suits or breathing gear.

by the way, there's a bunch of school kids looking for a missing space dog, probably lost over Bowland. If you can help find him, please do

http://www.thevisitor.co.uk/news/local/video-appeal-launched-after-morecambe-astro-dog-lost-in-space-1-7837447

31. Assuming these are pre-owned pussies

A thousand of them falling on a population would be a petflop, in addition one thousand pissed off pussies landing in a highly populated area or a school yard would create a severe cat-astrophe.

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