Research

The Law of Urination

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Tonight is the 26th Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. As I’ve covered previously, the subject of fluid dynamics has been quite successful at winning these awards designed to “make people LAUGH, then THINK,” and last year’s ceremony was no exception. Georgia Tech researchers won the Physics Prize last year for explaining why mammals of very different sizes all urinate for roughly 21 seconds.

Urination is a gravity-driven process, and larger animals have longer urethras, which means that gravity will have more time to accelerate fluid flowing from the the bladder to, well, the exit. Thus, larger animals will have higher flow rates. This allows them to empty their bigger bladders in essentially the same amount of time as a smaller animal. Recognizing this pattern can be helpful to both veterinarians diagnosing problems in animals and to engineers designing systems to move fluids efficiently.

There’s no way to know whether fluid dynamics will win another Ig Nobel Prize tonight, but I can guarantee that subject will come up. I’ll be giving a 24/7 lecture on Fluid Dynamics during tonight’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.  You can see me – and find out this year’s winners – by watching the ceremony webcast here starting at 5:40pm EDT. (Video credit: DNews; research credit: P. Yang et al.)

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