Nyan Cat’s Rainbow Moves The Feline Pop-Tart At Mach 7

By Kyle Hill | November 5, 2013 10:30 am

An 8-bit Pop-Tart kitty moves twice as fast as the fastest jet ever created. That’s because this cosmic cat, this ubiquitous meme, has to take off and land adorably in space. And what better place to take off and land from than the giant litter box that is the undisturbed regolith of the Moon?

If Nyan Cat landed on the Moon to do its business, the strawberry-flavored critter would eventually have to get off the surface—it would have to escape the Moon’s gravitational pull. Like how rockets on Earth must do, Nyan Cat would have to reach the escape velocity of the Moon. This critical speed is dependent on the mass and size of the object producing the pull, as well as a defined gravitational constant. For the Moon, this turns about to be about 2,375 meters per second—or around seven times the speed of sound in air. That little cat is indeed excreting a hypersonic rainbow out its backside.

The escape velocity of the Moon–and therefore Nyan Cat’s velocity in my feline fantasy–is twice as fast as our fastest jet; the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. If the critter can outperform the jet, it would also outperform its engines. Nyan Cat’s rainbow could have a thrust-to-weight ratio of 10-to-1. If that were the case, Nyan Cat’s rainbow magically generates around 300 Newtons of thrust. That’s about 0.1% of the thrust of just one Boeing 747 engine, but then again the delicious feline doesn’t weigh 900,000 pounds.

But could the furry/delicious abomination actually produce such thrust? Where would it get the energy to do so? (C’mon, you’ve come with me this far already.)

According to some of the oddest calculations I’ve ever seen, a strawberry Pop-Tart the size of a housecat contains about 51,000 Joules of energy. That sounds like a lot, but you can get that many Joules from burning just a gram of coal. And if an average housecat is about three kilograms, all the energy contained within Nyan Cat’s strawberry pastry body could only get the kitten up to about three-quarters the velocity of a cruising 747—almost 500 miles per hour (based on kinetic energy alone). Fast, but not fast enough.

Given the mass of the meme and how fast an object has to go to escape the pull of the Moon, Nyan Cat would need 166 times more energy than is held within the calories of its tart-body to get back to cruising the cosmos. Therefore, the cat’s rainbow must provide the remainder. Discovering Pop-Tart cat rainbow farts that contain over eight mega-joules of energy could win the next (Ig) Nobel Prize.

As cute as it is, a housecat-sized Pop-Tart creature moving at Mach 7 has eight times the kinetic energy as a two-ton car moving at highway speed. So if you hear this song, for the love of science, get out of the way.

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It has been said that you should try to make a problem as simple as possible, but not simpler. Here, that problem is finding the real science behind pop culture. But Not Simpler is a place where you can ask the questions you thought were too nerdy for real answers. The physics of video games? Sure! The chemistry of dragon breath? Why not? When you can find the realities behind your favorite fiction, and seriously nerd-out in the process, everyone wins. Simple.

About Kyle Hill

Kyle Hill is a science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. His work has appeared in Wired, The Boston Globe, Scientific American, Popular Science, Slate, and more. He is a TV correspondent for Al Jazeera America's science and technology show TechKnow and a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Find his stream of nerdery on Twitter: @Sci_Phile Email him at sciencebasedlife [at] gmail [dot] com.

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