How not to spill stuff in the office

Hot on the heels of last week’s pair of Ig Nobel Awards going to independent groups studying how we manage to (or not to) walk into other walkers, comes news on how not to spill coffee while walking. tells us “The Mind-Bending Physics Of Walking With Coffee May Save Humanity, For Now.” The subconscious skills Arizona State University researchers have identified may lead to advances in prosthetics, rehabilitation, brain-machine interface, robotics, manufacturing, and automation. Covering the same groundbreaking developments, the always thought-provoking also reports in “Walking with coffee is a little-understood feat of physics” that humans may intuitively switch between high (out of phase with coffee waves) and low frequency (in phase) cup rotation as a coping mechanism. The trick is to underemphasize the switch.

We’ve actually been following the coffee spill trail for some time now. This article from 2018 details the findings of Korean scholar Jiwon Han, who also determined that vessel grip and orientation were key, followed in importance by cup shape and manner of walking. He presented a Ted Talk here. And in 2012, Gizmodo reported that UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineers warned us to use a bigger mug, not overfill, walk slowly, and keep our eyes on the prize (the coffee), not the floor. And if you want to walk, carry coffee, and avoid stepping on chewing gum at the same time, these 2021 Ig Nobel winners may have picked up some useful tips along the way. Or you can always move to Singapore if you don’t need to blow bubbles.

A spill coming to your keyboard

In other hot spill-specific news, you’ll soon be able to show spills (water), beans (kidney), and bubbles (soap) in text messages, email, and social media posts. They’re among the 37 different new emoji characters coming soon to a mobile device near you. Unicode released Version 14.0 this week.


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