Despite the ubiquity of caffeine consumption and the elegant simplicity of mug design, people still spill coffee on themselves all the time. It's an inevitable pitfall to enjoying the world's most popular psychoactive drug and one which coffee drinkers will gladly deal with if it means getting an aromatic morning buzz.
Luckily, scientists are here to remind us that the coffee stain on your pants is indeed your fault. But in addition to explaining why it is that coffee spills are so common, recent research claims to have found the most efficient way to hold a coffee mug without making a mess.
Entitled "A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime," the research looked at the movement of fluids and how they are affected by a human holding a coffee mug. Ultimately, the goal was to find out why coffee in a mug has the tendency to "splash aggressively against the cup," as opposed to, wine in a wine glass which moves more like "calm waves… gently [rippling]."
Jiwon Han, author of the study, sets up the issue as such: "Rarely do we manage to carry coffee around without spilling it once. In fact, due to the very commonness of the phenomenon, we tend to dismiss questioning it beyond simply exclaiming: 'Jenkins! You have too much coffee in your cup!'"
In order to help out the legions of sleepy, sloppy coffee drinkers, as well as this mysterious Jenkins character, Han, using detailed calculations and graphs, found the safest way to hold a cup full of coffee. Turns out Jenkins didn't have too much coffee in his cup! Silly Jenkins should have been holding his mug with a Mr. Burns-esque wrist bend and claw-shaped hand over the rim. Like so:
By measuring the frequency of oscillations in coffee mugs, Han was able to detect a significant difference in spillage between using the handle and the claw model. The study then goes into a nauseating amount of mathematical detail to explain why this is the case and comes up with an added solution that sounds like a Monty Python bit.
"Since the magnitude of acceleration in the claw-hand model is significantly smaller, the claw-hand posture is less likely to spill coffee," Han found, adding that walking backwards may also lessen the chances of spilling coffee. "Since we are not accustomed to backwards walking, our motion in the walking direction becomes irregular, and our body starts to heavily rely on sideways swinging motion in order to keep balance."
So, now the real question becomes whether or not you (or Jenkins) want to become that guy at the office who walks around backwards with a coffee claw while pontificating to colleagues about why it's the most scientifically sound way to transport coffee.
It's probably worth trying.