Squirrel Wavelength

By Phil Plait | January 13, 2009 9:05 am

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pretty pictures

Comments (58)

  1. RichV

    About two feet?

  2. It took me a few minutes to figure out what the captionless photo was about, but then I saw the gaps in the snow on top of the fence. Then I got the title’s meaning. :-)

    So, what is the wavelength of the North American gray squirrel?

  3. So what’s the nutquist frequency?

  4. Sapjes

    Haha! That was funny, got me staring for a few seconds looking for some weird squirrel :’)

  5. I embiggened the pic, but still could not see… then I read Ken B’s post! It all makes sense now! I used to have a dog, and there was one particular squirrel that would walk across the top of the fence, stop, then start chattering at the dog. The dog would go crazy..

  6. Doc

    Looks more like an absorption spectrum to me. Which end of the fence is red?

  7. Swift

    I don’t know what the wavelength of the North American gray squirrel is, but it must be low – their frequency is very high. 😉

  8. TheElkMechanic

    At first I was going to say it was a red squirrel, but the wavelength is way too long. With a 2-foot wavelength, let’s see, that’s about 2/3 of a meter, so that gives you, what, about a 50MHz frequency? But that’s not even in the visible spectrum, that’s up in the ham radio range…

    It wasn’t a squirrel, it was a pig!

  9. Charles Boyer

    “Which end of the fence is red?”

    Depends on which way the tree rat ran.

  10. Kevin

    Everyone knows squirrels are the advanced guard in the Great Animal Conspiracy.

    And like others, I don’t know the wavelength of a squirrel, but I do know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow!!

  11. HA! Now we KNOW what gives various rodentia their high-pitched voices! It’s the Doppler effect!

  12. Gary Ansorge

    Let’s see,,,if E=hv and E=mc^2 then mc^2=hv therefore the frequency v=(mc^2)/h.(h is Planks constant).

    Thus, if we assume the squirelly mass=500 grams then the frequency of a squirrel =,,,oh darn, I broke my calculator,,,never mind,,,

    ,,,anyway, it would be REALLY HIGH!!!

    GAry 7

  13. OK, that was pretty good.

  14. Becca Stareyes
  15. WJM

    HA! Now we KNOW what gives various rodentia their high-pitched voices! It’s the Doppler effect!

    It depends on whether they’re running towards you or away from you — or you are running towards or away from them — innit?

  16. davidlpf

    I think someone is getting a little squirely.

  17. Man, that’s clever. The first thing I thought of was “area under a curve” with the squirrel being the curve segment…


  18. Colin J

    bwahahaha…. that made me chuckle. Thanks!

  19. CR

    Uh, Kevin, is that an African swallow, or European?

  20. gopher65

    Ahahahah:). That’s hilarious:).

  21. Magnus

    Was this made by one squirrel interacting with itself ? What would happen if you put it into a box with Schrödinger’s cat?

  22. Todd W.


    It would be both dead and alive at the same time.

  23. Those are some wide absorption lines – are the squirrels thermally or non-thermally broadened?

  24. Ellindsey

    Now if the squirrel goes through a grating, does it make a diffraction pattern? Or just a splatter?

  25. Dylan

    @Gary Ansorge

    According to that, I come out with 6.7819646488447 * 10^49. A big number indeed.

  26. Magnus

    @Todd W.

    I actually think both possibilities inside the box will kill the squirrel. The living cat will eat the squirrel, and the poison will kill both the cat and the squirrel.

  27. Todd W.


    You’re forgetting the rare possibility that the squirrel may be able to breathe the poison without being affected.

  28. Ifrit

    Question? im 15 i dont see why knowing the wavelength of a squirrel should matter

  29. Doc

    I think of you’re going to thermally broaden a squirrel, it’s probably best to skin it first then pass it through the grating, and then cook over a slow fire (to tenderize the meat).

    “Squirrels are singed, gutted, trussed like rabbits, roasted or put in pastry: eat with cameline sauce or in pastry with wild duck sauce [Le Ménagier de Paris, J. Hinson (trans.)].”

  30. Well, apparently all matter _can_ be represented in wave form, be it gas, plasma, or even squirrel.

  31. Stan9FOS

    It was, of course, a spherical squirrel…

  32. ColinB

    If you’ve ever read Farley Mowat’s “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be”, there’s a hilarious section where the local cats used to taunt Mutt, the dog, from the top of fences, smug in their sense of security.

    That is, until he learned to climb and traverse said fences.

    Cat lovers will wince, I’m afraid…

  33. Metre

    @ Gary Ansorge and @ Dylan

    No, no, we’re after the De Broglie wavelength, not the frequency. Assuming the squirrel is traveling at a non-relativistic 1 mph (~500 cm/s) and that its mass is 400 g, we get:

    lambda = h/mv = 6.6*10^-27/(500*400) = 3.3*10^-22 cm

    So either the BA’s fence is very small or we have disproved de Broglie’s hypothesis!

  34. “that’s up in the ham radio range… It wasn’t a squirrel, it was a pig!”

    …unless its name was Hammy. “I can burp my ABCs!…”

  35. Kyle

    Geeks of the world unite. Where else but here can with have conversations about the wave length of squirrels, or disprove DeBroglie’s hypothesis.

  36. There was a short article in the February, 2006 issue of The Physics Teacher very much along these lines.


  37. I doubt that’s a standing wave…

  38. Doug

    What’s the frequency Kenneth?

  39. ND

    not standing but cute bouncy squirrel wave.

  40. European squirrel or Asian squirrel?

    I don’t know… AAAHHHHH!

  41. Paul H


    *ahem* 3.3*10^-32 cm. *cough*

    And you might have gotten away with it too, if you’d just used SI units.

  42. Autumn

    Just have to ask from down in Gainesville, Fl, what is that white powdery substance you have used to calculate the squirrel’s wavelength? I hope it was environmentally friendly. I’ve heard some unscrupulous louts are in the habit of using the dangerous dihydrogen-monoxide as the powdered medium.
    Luckily we never see such horrors down here.

  43. csrster

    Tony, tony, tony, what can I say but “Nuts to you!”.

  44. icemith

    @Autumn, (at 10:03 pm above)

    I think you are on very flakey ground, just _mentioning_ dihydrogen-monoxide!

    And we in the Southern Hemisphere are being sadly deprived of it at the moment, due to some Squirrel having cornered the market. But we will have revenge in a few months.


  45. Metre

    @Paul H

    I guess that explains a lot about the grades I got in physics.

  46. Pion

    Can you determine the exact location of the squirrel from that wavelength and the momentum that created it? Could you run a few squirrels through the twin-slit experiment to help me get to the bottom of this?

    My brow is furrowed. . .FURROWED I tell you!

  47. Gary Ansorge

    Metre and Paul h:

    Thanks for the expansion on my original hypothesis,,,I knew there was a reason we invented computers,,,much less register overflow,,,

    Wow! 10^-32cm? That’s only a couple of orders of magnitude larger than the Plank Length,,,I wonder what would happen if we slammed two squirrels into each other? Would they form an Earth gobbling black hole? Or perhaps some gooey Stranglets?
    Quick, we must sue the natural order to prevent such heinous experiments.

    GAry 7

  48. Todd W.


    what would happen if we slammed two squirrels into each other?

    The observing scientist would exclaim, “Aw, nuts!”?

  49. IVAN3MAN


    I wonder what would happen if we slammed two squirrels into each other?

    A pair of nutcrackers.

  50. WJM

    Ban dihydrogen monoxide now! It’s killing people!

  51. James Cronen, that’s hysterical! I wish that guy had written more about it, but I guess they only gave him one page. His fence looks like mine, too. :-)

  52. Gary Ansorge

    GAK!!! COUGH!!! CHOKE!!!! Coffee spewing from nasal orifices,,,

    Ok. I’m done,,,

    GAry 7

  53. Crux Australis

    Was that a spherical squirrel in a vacuum?

  54. Mchl

    Aside from the squirrel which IS NOT on the picture, I’d like to point out, there actually IS an UFO on the picture. But once again dr Plait, being part of government cover-up agenda, is distracting us from really important topics.

  55. Law Mom

    Clearly this was a drunk squirrel.

  56. Vasant

    Clearly it’s a case of the ‘Red shifting squirrel’. I propose a name akin to that german sounding cat; Hubble’s squirrel. Now you see it now you don’t. I pity the dog!


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