Falling Felines Photo Fundraiser

$3,550 of $3,500 goal

Raised by 56 people in 1 month

Hi All! You may know that I've been working on a popular science book on the history and physics of how cats land on their feet when they fall. The book will be coming out from Yale University Press hopefully in early 2018, and it will feature lots of wild photographs and illustrations of falling cats, such as this classic sequence from 1922.

The history of falling cat research runs from literally the dawn of physics up to the present day, a remarkable 300+ years of investigation of a seemingly mundane problem.  Unfortunately, it's in talking about the more recent research that I run into problems. Once I started looking at images from the 20th century, I found that a lot of key copyrighted photographic sequences are  really, really, expensive to license, even though I feel that they are essential to the book's success. My publisher is a non-profit university press which doesn't have funds to cover the costs of such licenses, which is why I'm here.

I'm looking to raise about $3500 to cover the costs of key remaining images for my book. These images will include:

Important images from a paper by Rademaker and ter Braak from 1935, which first explained the most important cat-turning mechanism: $400
Iconic images of a twisting cat next to a twisting astronaut that appeared in LIFE Magazine in 1969: $2400
A photograph of a cat receiving a skydiving certificate thanks to an unexpected fall: $50
A technical image from the 1969 work, illustrating exactly how the cat flips over: $150
An illustration from the 1960s showing a professional high-diver mimicking the cat's motion: $300

Most of this cost is in the Getty images from LIFE Magazine, and they are the most important to me.  I will include/exclude images based on how much funding I end up with in the end.  Any additional funds which end up not being necessary will be sent to local cat rescue groups.

I hate asking for funds for such things, but I've had a heck of a year in terms of finances, including cancer treatment for my late beloved kitty Sabrina, a replacement of my air conditioning system, and storm damage from Hurricane Florence (on the second floor; go figure).  But I would like to offer the following in return for folk's donations:

$20: a shoutout and thank you on twitter!
$40: an acknowledgement of you and/or the pet of your choice, cat or otherwise, in the end credits of the book. (Nothing profane, obviously.)
$100: the aforementioned acknowledgement as well as a signed copy of the finished book sent to you. (I'll cover US domestic shipping costs, but will ask for help with international costs.)

Possibly more incentives as we go along!  I'm aiming to have the funds in place and finish all the figure purchases by the end of this month.

I thank you and my cats, who also make appearances in the book, also thank you!


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Hi All,

Just a reminder: I'm hoping to send off the final draft of the book for publication, so if you contributed to the fundraiser at $40 or more and want to be acknowledged in the print book, please let me know how you want to be mentioned asap! You can reply via GoFundMe or by my blog email.

In other news:

ALL FIGURES ARE PURCHASED! I will elaborate on a few more of them in the near future, and share other book tidbits, but here is one of the figures purchased. It is a sketch of experiments done in the 1960s with an actual Olympic diver attempting to replicate the famous "kitty flip." In other experiments, to confirm that the diver was actually initiating the turn *after* leaving the board, he was instructed to just jump off in a flat dive and only turn if/when he heard a signal from the researcher.

Thank you again all, and more updates to come!
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Hi All,

We did it! I have all the funds I need in order to get the figures I need for the book! Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who contributed; I will be sending out thank you notes to folks this week and figuring out how to handle the various rewards that I offered.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share a figure that I JUST DISCOVERED this past week. I've been studying the history of falling cat physics for over two years now, but I still manage to find small surprises that revise the history in notable ways.

In my previous posts, I noted the work of Dutch physiologists in 1936, who introduced what is now known as the "bend-and-twist" model of cat-turning. On Friday, however, I found that bend-and-twist was suggested two decades earlier, in 1912, by J.F. Hayword and W.S. Franklin, in a letter to the editor. This short observation was immediately criticized by another physicist, and seems to have been quickly forgotten, but it did result in another amazingly silly illustration of cat-turning physics, which I share in this post.

Fortunately, I have the perfect spot for this figure in the book: I am making major revisions to a chapter that attempts to explain how people can still be arguing about the cat problem in 2018, and Hayword and Franklin's work will fit perfectly there!
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Hi All,

It looks like I'm going to hit my goal!!! I'm only $50 away, so I will be able to include all of my desired images one way or another.

I'll keep the fundraising open for the next couple of days to finish things up; if any excess funds are raised, they will go to animal rescue groups.

Today, I paid for the "hot dog with a demon face" figure from the last update as well as two others from that key 1936 paper, for $450. The image attached to this post is one of these images.

Earlier physiologists had speculated that the cat-righting reflex is initiated when a cat starts to fall with its head upside-down. Rademaker and ter Braak rather simply showed that this is not the case, by dropping cats with their bodies upside-down but their heads right-side-up, as shown in parts 4 and 5 of the figure. Even in this case, the cats flipped over and landed on their feet.

Another update soon!
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Hi all!

In the home stretch of this fundraiser, and I want to say thank you all so much for your contributions, both in funds and in shares. I plan to continue using this site to post periodic updates and trivia about the book even after I reach my funding goal, as another way to thank you all for your help.

Tomorrow I'll probably pay for another trio of figures, from a 1936 paper, and I thought I'd share one of those figures tonight. The paper in question was written by Dutch physiologists Rademaker and ter Braak, and is one of the most important papers in the history of "cat-turning." In it, they not only studied what parts of the brain are involved in cat-turning, but proposed a model for cat-turning that was closer to the "correct" answer than any previous one.

The model is called "bend-and-twist," and I won't say too much about it here -- that's for the book to explain! But they provided an image showing how the cat's muscles might bend to achieve this motion, and I like to call it the "bored hot dog with a demon face."

More updates to come, including more figures, more lost passages, and other weirdness!
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$3,550 of $3,500 goal

Raised by 56 people in 1 month
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