If you’re a guy, and you wear khakis, it has happened to you at some point: The dreaded urine splashback. Fortunately, in a world filled with trivial problems, one team has dared to answer the question that really matters: How can we stop splashback for good?
The answer is as simple as it is ever so slightly impractical: Pee on a tiny forest of nanotubes. They were inspired by Tortula moss, which the team had studied and which uses densely packed fronds to suck any and all moisture out of the air. Unsurprisingly, when they used water streams to test a synthetic material using the same “forest of tubes” idea, they found that splashback was minimal. This technique is so effective that it can even be used to trap light, so using it to control the results of last night’s beer swilling is a natural choice.
Despite sounding like Ig Nobel bait, there are some very practical applications for this. Those handling toxic, corrosive, or otherwise dangerous chemicals, for example, are worried about splashback for obvious reasons; it’s just that it’s easier to relate to messed-up pants than it is to handling the most dangerous acids known to science. That said, one suspects you’ll next hear about this research from urinal companies, eager to preserve the khakis of, shall we say, “customers” everywhere. So, when somebody asks what science has done for them lately, you’ll have an answer just a urinal away.