Pythagorean Cup - Gastro Obscura

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Pythagorean Cup

A timeless practical joke, brought to you by the ancient Greeks.

When you think of the ancient Greeks, practical jokes might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But along with art, architecture, and philosophy, you can add trick cups to their list of accomplishments.

The Pythagorean cup is so-named because it was allegedly invented by Pythagoras of Samos (yes, the same guy who gave us theories about right triangles). It’s a small cup with a column in its center. It doesn’t look like much, but when an unsuspecting drinker fills it past a designated level, the liquid mysteriously drains out. Legend has it that Pythagoras used it as a way to punish greedy drinkers who poured themselves too much wine.

So how does it work? There is a very small opening at the base of the center column. Once it seeps inside, liquid moves though a coiled pipe that will eventually lead to a hole at the bottom of the cup. If the user doesn’t overfill the cup, the liquid won’t make it through the entire system. But if they do, prepare for engineering-inspired hilarity.

Pythagorean cups are available on the streets of Crete and online.

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Contributed by
Sam OBrien
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