The Great Experiment! – Myth or Fact?

I’ve never been one to believe something just because someone told me, I heard it somewhere, or read it in a newspaper or magazine. So when I was on my way to South America last year I was ready to conduct THE GREAT EXPERIMENT! Something I’ve wondered about from the first time I heard about it in my jr. high school science class…something that was “reconfirmed” to me by several friends upon my announcing my trip: The water will spiral down the sink in a different direction in the southern hemisphere than it will here at home in the northern hemisphere.

I guess I could’ve just looked it up years ago in a book, on the internet, but I need to find out for myself. And to be honest, I didn’t think of doing so until just now – duh!

See, my curiosity about this “fact” was piqued when I was a teenager and my science teacher brought it up in the class. So of course, I go home and start watching the water go down the drain in different parts of the house. The trouble was that sometimes it spiraled down clockwise; sometimes counter clockwise. I caught myself mesmerized, to this day when water is spiraling down the drain, standing there almost frozen and feeling like I have to watch which way the water will go down the drain. Why doesn’t it go down the same way every time!? Could Mr. Pack be wrong? No way – he was my advanced science teacher in 9th grade, he was cool, and he knew everything!! Am I doing something wrong? Could it depend on the time of year? Does this only work in a vacuum (I don’t’ think water drain in a vacuum, would it?)

Everyone is telling me, “When you go down to South America, you’re going to see that the toilets will flush in a different direction.” Is “everyone” wrong?

March 28, 2006 I was leaving for Montreal, Canada (northern hemisphere). Then I’d fly to Chile (southern hemisphere), then Buenos Aires (southern). Then I’d fly back home (northern). Then back down to Brazil (southern), then back home. I may never have a chance like this to conduct my great experiment! THE TIME HAS COME!

I begin the experiment on March 26, 2006 by flushing the toilet a couple times, but I realize the water is being forced in one direction. So I fill the sinks in the house with soapy water and begin to observe. Same results I’ve always seen – sometimes it drains clockwise; sometimes counter. Hmmm…maybe it’s my house. I go to my parents’ home and have the same results.

California, March 26, 2006 (Clockwise rotation)

When in Montreal, I do the same in my room and in the bathrooms at Cirque du Soleil headquarters. Same results as I had back home. Is this an urban legend????

Upon my arrival in Santiago, one of the biggest things on my mind was not only having to learn the music for the Cirque du Soleil show, but which way the water was going to drain down the frigin’ sinks here! I’m obsessed! So while I’m waiting for my luggage at the airport, I go into the bathroom where there were 3 sinks. SAME RESULTS! During my stay at the Sheraton, again – at times clockwise; at time counter.

  • Buenos Aires (May 2006): same results.
  • California (June 2006): same
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil (August 2006): same
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (December 2007): same
  • California (January 2007): same

Ok, it’s time to look this up, because it looks like I was duped a long time ago. This is what I found out:

This myth (Sorry Mr. Pack) stems from the FACT that cyclonic systems (hurricane, typhoon, etc.) rotate clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter clockwise in the southern. It’s called the Coriolis effect. But this has nothing to do with water draining in toilets, sinks, bathtubs, etc.

My god…I can rest now!!

Brazil, 12/10/06 (Counter clockwise rotation)

California, January 31, 2007 (Clockwise rotation)


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