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Engineers study urinal splashing, offer aiming tips

A group of Brigham Young University fluid-dynamics researchers apply the laws of physics to urinal splash-back to help guys pee-fect their aim.

Urinals in a row a Union Station in Toronto
The scene of the crime. Jason Doucette

Men tend to pride themselves on having a good sense of direction, except that concept seems to go out the window when it comes to urinals (as any person who has ever stepped into a unisex port-a-potty can attest). A group of engineers with the Splash Lab at Brigham Young University is coming to the rescue with a study on urinal dynamics.

The researchers used a simulated urine stream and, using high-speed video, captured how it reacted to hitting various surfaces. By examining the splash-back, the team was able to formulate a set of suggestions for keeping the mess to a minimum.

For starters, standing up is usually the splashiest option available. The researchers suggest reconsidering this and instead going for a sitting-down approach when possible.

If you are going to stand, there are ways to keep things cleaner. The micturition-splash mitigation techniques include aiming for a vertical surface, avoiding the water bowl, getting close enough that you avoid the stream dissipating into droplets, and aiming at a sideways or downward angle. Got that, fellas? Great, now go practice.

The study will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics later this month, and it has led to one of the all-time great scientific abstract openings: "In response to harsh and repeated criticisms from our mothers and several failed relationships with women, we present the splash dynamics of a simulated human male urine stream impacting rigid and free surfaces. Our study aims to reduce undesired splashing that may result from lavatory usage."

If you haven't listened to your mother or your significant other, perhaps you'll be willing to listen to a bunch of engineers.