Saturday, July 14, 2012

Does the sink drain different in different hemispheres?

Hello All,

My name is Trevor O'Leary, I grew up in Wellesley, MA, but currently am living in Natick, MA where I just bought a house. This is my final year for my undergraduate degree at Boston University, and my only and final class I have to take to complete my degree in Management Studies. I have studied at a number of schools prior to coming to BU. I currently work as a Firefighter/EMT for Wellesley Fire Department, and have been doing so full time for about a year and a half. However, I have been working as a firefighter since I was 18 years old.

I think this class will be very interesting, because even though I have lived in the metro Boston area since I was 8 years old, I have seldom spent much time truly studying and observing the Harbor. I have always taken it for granted what I take trips up to the aquarium or to Joe's American Bar and grill on the seaport. I like the adventurous concept of this course, and how it does not consist of reviewing textbooks and old nautical maps in a classroom for 50 hours.

I honestly can say I have never really thought to look and see what direction the water spins when going down the drain in a sink. It was an interesting task that I had never been asked to do in any of the prior science classes I had taken. In the process of this observation we used our hands to clog up the sink and allow it to fill; once filled we then released the plug and watched as the water disappeared into the drainage system. My original guess was that the water spun in a counterclockwise direction, and I was able to test this hypothesis with my observations in this experiment. The decision of which way the water spun in the sink was not clear on then first attempt of clogging up the drain. The water does not create a spinning motion on the surface until it is shallow enough to create the whirlpool effect. After completing the experiment a few times our group unanimously agreed that the water was spinning in a clockwise direction, disproving my original hypothesis.

When looking to come up with an answer for the question of "Does the water drain in the opposite direction in Australia?" I did some careful research about the Coriolis Effect, and how it presents itself between the two hemispheres. When looking at larger storm cells and weather patterns that travel a long distance and are slow moving there is a great movement in one direction or the other based on the hemisphere. After viewing a few videos, reading a couple of blogs and articles, and then attempting the  experiment again in my own sink, I have come to the conclusion that the Coriolis Effect is not strong enough to take hold of such a small body of water, and the direction the water drains in is relevant more to other external forces, such as, sink bowl shape, amount of water forcing down, and the direction the drain is lifted from. Once the water gets into a swirl its not going to have the energy to stop it, and if you open the drain on one side versus the other, the water will attempt to spin to follow the path of the least resistance and negate the Coriolis Effect.

I am looking forward to our class today, and I hope to see you all in an hour and a half.

Trevor O'Leary

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