I always thought Russians were the world’s greatest cat lovers—until I saw this video.
Reader Stephen Q. Muth, better known as Butter’s Staff, sends this intriguing video of a cat (and two mice, barely visible) subjected to zero gravity on one of those airplane rides where, as a plane goes over the top of a parabolic arc, the centrifugal force cancels out gravity and one feels weightless—for about 25 seconds. That’s how they train astronauts to see what weightlessness feels like. (See here for more information).
Here an innocent kitty, named Porculpa, has the experience. I don’t think she liked it, despite the mice. Imagine an animal suddenly experiencing weightlessness for the first time. What would a cat do when turned upside down and released?
The explanation for the whole sordid affair is on Vimeo:
Porculpa is the name of a female Russian cat that I took into zero gravity onboard a parabolic aeroplane in 2008. It also means ‘Your Fault’ in Latin.
The plane left from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center at Star City in Moscow and flew over Azerbaijan. I filmed Porculpa as she adapted to the conditions over 10 parabolas. Each parabola of the IL-76 aeroplane gives roughly 23 seconds of weightlessness. Inside the red container that you see are two mice which were meant to be released at the same time but the Russian Space Agency stipulated that they could not risk the mice getting loose and chewing wires. Both Porculpa and the mice were inside of a specially designed tent (Designer: Nick Joyce/Enigma FX) which was made from ripstack material with crash mats underneath to minimise risk. The height of the protective tent was 6’5”.
After initially considering a hummingbird to see how its flight instinct in weightlessness would be affected, and also discovering that many animals have been tested in isolation but not in relationships to one another, I decided to use a cat and mouse to frame predator prey behaviour in a zero gravity setting.
You cannot rehearse for this environment and research is no real preparation. I chose microgravity flight and animals to create a situation where I had to create a performance in which instinct is the script. In the full footage of ten parabolas, what you do see is the cat begin to adapt to the conditions and display agility and prowess in landing. It uses the container with the mice in to grab onto and turns it around. Its lack of sentience is the deciding factor in the performance.
Did they expect the cat to kill the mice in zero-G conditions? That’s a sick experiment. Fortunately, they weren’t allowed to try it. Note that comments are disabled on the video!
Whoops, I just found a video answer to my questions about cats dropped upside down, and what they do under zero-gravity. Here’s the answer, which doesn’t involve stupid predation experiments: