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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 06:26 GMT
Beer mat flipping 'perfected'
The beer mat
The Aeromat is perfect for beer mat flipping
Engineering experts have come up with a way of improving one of the favourite pub games enjoyed by British drinkers - beer mat flipping.

Through a series of experiments, engineers have come up with a new design that gives an added edge to the traditional pastime of flipping a mat up from the edge of a table and catching it mid-air.

Ian Johnston, an aerodynamic expert at the Open University, and Hazel Lucas, who is doing a masters in engineering at Oxford University, spent two months working on the project.

To help them, they constructed a special machine designed to simulate the action of a person flipping a mat from below.

Mr Johnston said: "The first part of the research, which was particularly enjoyable, involved going to a canalside pub and experimenting with the different beer mats.

When I first looked at the project I thought it was a bit of a joke but it soon became fascinating from an engineering point of view
Ian Johnston, the Open University
"We found the mats behaved differently, mainly according to their shape but also their size and how you balance them on the table."

Further tests found the key to the perfect flip was to have as much of the mat over the table's edge as possible to be able to strike it near the centre.

Mr Johnston and Ms Lucas experimented with 35 designs before settling on one they considered the best.

The final design, called the Aeromat, looks much like any square beer mat but uses an arched-shape piece of cardboard, two-thirds of its length.

'Breakthrough' for pub sports

The last third is made from foam, lighter than the cardboard, allowing more than half the mat to balance over the table's edge.

It also has a plastic V-shaped wing on either side designed to keep it level in flight and close to the flipper, making it easier to catch.

David Hodge, marketing manager for cider Strongbow, which commissioned the research, said: "This is a breakthrough for the legion of pub sportsmen who have been flipping with equipment unchanged in decades."

Bulmers, makers of Strongbow, have sent consignments of the new Aeromats to student bars at Manchester University, Nottingham University and University College London to test them before it considers whether to distribute them elsewhere.

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