The Physics of vFlipCup

Lauren Locke-Paddon - August 14, 2014

The premiere VMworld Community event is almost upon us: the hopes and dreams of storage professionals converge at vFlipCup 2014 on August 25, 2014.

Reserve your spot right away here:

With the epic challenge nearly here, we decided to debunk a common myth on the origins of the name of the great sport. Everyone knows why it’s called “vFlipCup,” right?  Wrong.


Since vFlipCup is the event of VMworld, we assume that the “v” stands for “Virtualization.”  That assumption, however, is based on mere coincidence.  In actuality, the “v” in vFlipCup stands for a suite of five physical principles that collectively produce the intricate grandeur that is vFlipCup.  They are velocity, verticality, vertex angle, vorticity, and vaultisimilitude.


corey picEveryone knows from high school physics that velocity refers to both speed and direction.  When flipping a flipcup, the flipper must master the speed and direction of his flip.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that the optimal speed of the flipping finger lies between 1.45 meters/second and 1.62 meters/second, depending on the height and arm length of the flipper.  In layman’s terms, you want to raise your hand toward your face slower than you would to swat a mosquito, but faster than you would to pick your nose.

As for direction, a consistent flipper will hit the base of the cup at the apex of the arm’s arc—in other words, the point ideally chosen to impart a truly vertical movement to said cup.  Which brings us to …





Nothing is more essential to a successful flip than the verticality of the cup’s trajectory.  Verticality is defined as the measure of an object’s perpendicularity to the plane of the horizon.  If you think of the table upon which the cup rests as the plane of the horizon, then perpendicularity is defined by the set of all coordinate points in three-dimensional space that are oriented, for lack of a better word, up.  So, basically, you want to hit the cup upward.  You know, toward the ceiling.




Vertex Angle 


This is perhaps the most subtle of all the v’s whose beautiful interplay underlies the inverted consummation of a satisfying flip.  The finger that makes the actual impact with the base of the cup must be bent at the proper angle to fully transfer the kinetic energy generated by the application of rotational momentum to an object in a state of inertial equilibrium.  The aforementioned proper angle is delineated by the middle and proximal phalanxes (aka, the second and third sections) of your index finger, and has been proven to lie within 3° of 97°.  If your phalanxes create a right angle—or even worse, an acute angle—your result will be decidedly obtuse, as you will not sufficiently distribute the force of your flip across the exposed base of the cup.  And your finger will probably hurt.



Vorticity is exactly what it sounds like: the rotational motion produced when a pseudo-vector interacts with sustained angular velocity across a semicircular planar field, when a fluid (not necessarily—though sufficiently—alcoholic) is involved.


Vaultisimilitude is the extent to which the cup overhangs the table, creating a vault-like structure, or at least sort of part of one.  This principle is also called pendancy, cantileveration, or hang-over-ness, but this article is all about v’s, so we’re going with vaultisimilitude.  Regardless of what you call it, though, the essential fact remains the same: the cup must overhang the table by exactly 16.359% of the surface area of the base of the cup.  If you do not achieve this value, then obviously you don’t know what you’re doing.

There you have it—the hidden science of vFlipCup.  You should have absolutely no trouble implementing these principles and thereby becoming an unstoppable force and/or an immovable object in the exciting competition of vFlipCup.


Lauren Locke-Paddon

Lauren Locke-Paddon is the Director of Customer Success at TechValidate. She leads the customer success team with a focus on delivering high-touch consultative support that emphasizes results.

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