Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Genius of Lan Lan

As we've documented at Cats and Catts, Lan Lan has an odd habit of demanding faucet water.  The dripping rate needs to be within the right parameters and she will let you know if it isn't.

It took a team of scientists, however, to appreciate fully the depth of Lan Lan's feat.  

Scientists used fast-motion photography, computer modeling, statistics, and a cat named Cutta Cutta to reveal the physics behind cats' drinking behavior.  Cats, the study shows, put the tip of their tongue in the water and retract.  Unlike dogs who scoop water with their tongue, cats create a stream of water as they pull back, and their mouths close around the water just as gravity is about to do its thing.  Cats make this tongue action four times a second!

Lan Lan's faucet drinking takes this highly complicated endeavor to the next level of elegance.  By coming at the water at a forty-five degree angle, she maximizes the hydraulic vectors ... or something.  I think we need further study.
In the same issue of the New York Times, the Home and Garden section ran a story called "Hard to Kill: Houseplants for the Inept."  But they paired the story with a harlequin Phal. inflorescence and listed "moth orchid" among eleven plants that are hard to kill.  Really?  I'm doing okay with the ones I have but, trust me, they don't deserve the "hard to kill" label.  And why didn't Sansevieria trifasciata make the list?  Despite these gripes, the article is still worth reading and I hope it will give well-deserved link traffic to the Plants are the Strangest People blog.     


mr_subjunctive said...

In fairness, I think the "hard to kill" part was tacked on by someone other than the author. When I was interviewed, he said he was looking for a list of plants that were beautiful, useful, easy to grow, or otherwise interesting, not that he wanted a list of plants that were hard to kill.

Which explains how Asplenium spp. and Codiaeum variegatum wound up on the list. Putting them in a list of "hard to kill" plants verges on criminally negligent, but if you read carefully, the article's only claiming the last plant from each person's set (Saxifraga stolonifera, Aspidistra elatior, Cycas revoluta) as being hard to kill: the others are just along for the ride.

And for what it's worth, I disagree about Cycas revoluta, too.

This also explains why Sansevieria trifasciata didn't make the list: I wouldn't have included it in my list because I find them way too easy to kill, actually (pothos too), but someone surely would have included it, had that been the question asked.

Editors sometimes screw things up.

Emily Kennedy said...

For some reason this sentence on was especially cool to read:

"Cats' tongues operate more like octopus tentacles or elephant trunks, Stocker found."

CatsandCatts said...

That makes sense. Overall, I thought it was a strong article. Sometimes, the NYT gardening articles seem to recycle old advice ("newspapers for weed control? genius!") and the "Hard to Kill" article had a lot of new information (new to me, anyway). *Love* your blog, Mr. Subjunctive.

Emily -- I also like the gratuitous dog-bashing that sometimes crept into the coverage...

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