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Margo Lillie’s Contribution To The World: The Physics of Cow Tipping

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“Every cow who gives good service deserves a tip.”

– Bunk Strutts 2015

Physics of Cow Tipping 1

A 2005 study led by Margo Lillie, a zoologist at the University of British Columbia, concluded that tipping a cow would require an exertion of 2,910 newtons (654.2 lbf) of force, and is therefore impossible to accomplish by a single person. Her calculations found that it would take at least two people to apply enough force to push over a cow if the cow did not react and reorient its footing. If the cow did react, it would take at least four people to push it over. Lillie noted that cattle are well aware of their surroundings and are very difficult to surprise, due to excellent senses of both smell and hearing, but that according to laws of static physics, “two people might be able to tip a cow” if the cow were “tipped quickly—the cow’s centre of mass would have to be pushed over its hoof before the cow could react”. The Lillie Study has been replicated by other researchers, who confirmed that at least two to four people can, in fact, push over a cow.

Money quote: The Lillie Study has been replicated by other researchers, who confirmed that at least two to four people can, in fact, push over a cow.

I’m no rocket surgeon, but adolescence and alcohol are usually associated with stories of cow-tipping, and I imagine that Ms. Lillie and the other researchers who replicated the study had a blast that night.

[Explanatory graphic found here, study description from here, and trippytippy cows are here.]

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