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It's a long way down, kitty -- and that's a good thing

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I'm generally a sucker for anything cat-related on the internet (hilarious videos of cats surprising babies notwithstanding), though it's rare that I find something Damn Interesting enough to share with the blogosphere-at-large. Today, however, I've got some news cat lovers (and, potentially, haters) can use. Did you know? Cats and high-rises don't mix. Check it out:

Among the feline's numerous predatory gifts is the capacity to fixate on his prey"“a skill useful when chasing a shrew through the grass, but a serious disadvantage in the urban world. People living in tall buildings often allow their cats to sit on window ledges and fire escapes, unaware that the traits which allow cats to clamber through trees aren't nearly as effective with metal railings, window panes, and brick. Cats have been known to fixate on something outside and leap or fall from high-rise ledges, an occurrence frequent enough that urban veterinarians have coined a phrase for it: High-Rise Syndrome.

If you must live in a high-rise with a cat, feline physics advisors counsel, then live on the sixth floor or higher. It seems that cats who tumble from great heights have a better shot at survival -- much better, in fact -- than those who fall from five floors or lower. Six floors is the magic number. (Brief digression: ten years ago a good friend of mine's dad was working construction, and fell off the top of a six-story building. He landed on his feet, and survived. (Needless to say, he's got some joint problems.) Every year on the anniversary, he has a "fall party," and his family bakes him a six-story-building-shaped cake. Six stories, apparently, is the magic number for people, too.) The record for a cat surviving a fall is forty-three stories. How do they pull it off?

It takes a normal cat about a two and a half feet of free-fall to orient himself to feet-down, and it wasn't until the advent of high-speed cameras that the acrobatics were fully understood. Much like an ice skater controls her rate of spin by pulling in or extending her arms, the cat first tucks in his front legs and splays out his rear legs, allowing him to quickly situate his forequarters with the feet down. He then reverses the procedure, extending his front legs and tucking in the rear legs, allowing the hindquarters to rapidly twist into position while the forequarters turn only slightly. Rear legs re-extend when in place, and he's fully deployed. This position is ready for landing, but it also lends the cat a limited aerodynamic"“much like the flying squirrel. The ability to increase drag slows a cat's average terminal velocity from a person's 130mph to a much happier 60mph.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


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