The Cat Line Diagram

by James

When this blog was about organic chemistry, I’d never stoop so low as to put cute pictures of cats on my website to drive traffic. Now that it’s all about cat science, I’ve lost any compunctions I might have had earlier.  Want gratuitous cat pictures? You bet.

Introducing the Cat Line Diagram

But this blog is really about breaking new ground in cat science and cat analysis.

Last time we defined “conformations” as “the shapes a cat can make by moving its limbs around, thus providing differing levels of comfort.”

Today I want to study cat conformations in more detail and introduce a valuable tool that you can use for their further study and enjoyment: the Cat Line Diagram.

How to Depict 3-D Cats on a 2-D Page

Now there’s one complication with doing this. The picture above kind of shows how tricky it can get. Cats are 3-dimensional creatures and it’s difficult to show the 3-dimensional nature of cats on a 2-dimensional page.

Thankfully there’s a solution for this. Here’s how we can do it. Take the “flat” part of the cat (that’s in the plane of the page) and use normal lines. But take the parts that project “out” of the page (the two feet, in our example below) and use dark wedges to make lines to the feet. With the parts that are pointing behind the page, use dashed lines. Like this:

You can do anything with a Cat Line Diagram you can do with a normal cat, except you don’t run the risk of getting scratched. So just as Tabby Jr. in the picture below remains the same when we rotate him 180° in the plane of the page or along the the central axis, we can do the exact same things with a Cat Line Diagram. Note – we can only do this because this cat has a mirror plane (plane of symmetry) down the central axis. More on that later.


Using Cat Line Diagrams to Show Rotations

So far, we’ve just been drawing cats in one conformation. But what makes cat line diagrams really shine is that we can use them to show how the orientations of the limbs change as we rotate about the central axis. For instance here’s the same cat, but the drawing on the right shows a 60° rotation of the back end:

Here’s the best part: what we’ve really done here is make an abstract model of a cat and now we can manipulate it as we wish. We can even go further and rotate the cat’s rear end another 30°, even without a picture to guide us. So In the picture below, this represents it lifting its rear leg up until it is completely level with the head.  It takes a bit of time to see how these rotations work but if you’re really keen on studying this phenomenon you can pick up the skill rather quickly.

It’s All About Cats People

My answer all of those skeptics out there who think that I’m basically using cats as an excuse to talk about concepts in organic chemistry – specifically, skeletal formulae – is the following: if you can’t see the difference here between molecules and cats, something’s seriously wrong with you. If they look the same, it’s just a coincidence.

Next post: On Cats, Part 3: Newman Projections



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