¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending June 27, 2015
According to a popular myth, water draining from a container goes one way north of the equator and the other way south of it. Many people have convinced themselves that it’s true by observing their own toilet bowls to drain clockwise or counterclockwise. If you’re among them, I’m sorry to inform you that you’ve been misled. But it should be of consolation that the myth is rooted in something that really happens.
In the early 1800s, French scientist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis studied how objects move on rotating bodies. He’s most famous for explaining why an object or fluid crossing great distances on Earth seems to be deflected to the left or right. The phenomenon became known as the Coriolis Effect.
The Coriolis Effect happens partly because of intertia. That’s the tendency of an object to resist any change in motion. Any object that has mass also has intertia, whether it’s as small as an atomic particle or as large as a star. And the more mass, the more intertia. So more force is required to make it move, change direction, or stop. That’s why you can throw a baseball ...