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How a Mystery About Cats Helped Popularize Film as We Know It

Why does a cat always land on its feet?

This is a question that helped popularize the medium of film as we know it, according to a recent video from Vox.

In the late 1800s, French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey was fascinated by how things moved. In his efforts to examine the subtle movement of the human body and animal behaviour, he attempted to document movement using the nascent invention of photography.

At the time, photography was still largely being used only to document still images. Marey, however, developed a way to photograph several stages of movement onto a single glass plate. He called the method chronophotography, and it helped him record individual stages of motion from a single event.

Still, this process wasn’t sophisticated enough to answer many of the questions that Marey wished to solve. Therefore, he endeavored to update his machine using a new invention created by the Kodak companycelluloid film.

By stringing the film together and subjecting it to the same process that he had with his chronophotographs, he was able to make some of the very first "moviesseconds long clips of displaying the movements of his subjects. These became quite popular, and drummed up a great deal of interest from other scientists and technicians.

Using this newfound technique, Marey was finally able to solve the long-debated question of why a cat always lands on its feet.

To learn what he discovered, watch the full video bellow.  


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