The NC State researchers spent two years building and then testing a miniature version of the upper digestive track—essentially a tube (esophagus) connected to a pressurized chamber (stomach). Then they mixed together fake saliva, fake vomit aka vanilla pudding, and a real virus. Norovirus itself is too dangerous to work with, so they used a bacteriophage harmless to humans called MS2. The machine heaved this mixture into a chamber, and a device vacuumed out any aerosolized particles for analysis. In a worst case scenario, a single puking episode aerosolized as many as 13,000 virus particles.
By popular demand (and the help of intrepid readers Broan and theophrastvs), I present you a video clip of the humanoid robot known as Vomiting Larry.
Larry is used to study the way particles of puke become aerosolized, and how those particles spread and help infect other people. That's important, because it explains one of the ways that viruses spread by vomiting manage to end up in everyday things like, say, frozen raspberries. Aerosolized vomit isn't something you can spot. It doesn't clean up easily. And even just a drop of it can pass on plenty of viruses.
Carl Zimmer had a great piece up yesterday on norovirus, the virus that researchers are studying with the help of Vomiting Larry. His story has more info on how that virus spreads and will give you a better idea of why Vomiting Larry is so important.