And, of course, you’ll see the water draining the other way.
Before our trip to New Zealand and Australia, several people primed us to watch for a counter-clockwise spin in the bathtub or toilet.
Coriolis effect, you know, they’d say.
And we’d nod knowledgeably, just as if we, too, invoked the Coriolis effect daily to explain phenomena. Like, you know, the tendency to traverse grocery-store aisles clockwise, at least when the main entry is on the left-hand side.
So. Did we see a counter-clockwise spin in the water as it drained or flushed? No.
Did we even look for a counter-clockwise spin? No.
In a reverse Nativity-story effect, I guess, we had been warned by three wise men not to waste our time watching for differential drainage patterns. Were these magi actually qualified scientists? Well, I’d say so!
A brief aside. In something less than the full scientific spirit, I accept scientific conclusions based largely on the degree to which I fail to understand the explanations. By extension, so do I judge the qualifications of those who write said incomprehensible-ness. With articles achieving a 95% impenetrability quotient (me, I can usually follow only the abstract), writers for “Scientific American” are past qualified, beyond expert, approaching infallible.
Anyway, qualified or no, the three agreed: there is no north/south difference in how tubs drain or toilets flush. My favourite analysis of the three presented was, perhaps not surprisingly, also the shortest and lightest on jargon.
Really, I doubt that the direction of the draining water represents anything more than an accidental twist given by the starting flow. The local irregularities of motion are so dominant that the Coriolis effect is not likely to be revealed. An empirical test could help.
Fred W. Decker, professor emeritus (that’s smart, right?), said that. So calm. So rational.
An empirical test could help.
Yup. In this as in many areas of life.
Now, I could riff on this for a while. I could follow the lead of the liberal media, who bemoan what they see as the tendency of conservative politicians to put ideology over empirical observations about the environment. I could follow the lead of the conservative media, who bemoan what they see as the tendency of liberal politicians to put ideology over empirical observations about human nature.
Or, I could, instead, bemoan what I see as the human tendency to accept the common wisdoms without conducting our own empirical tests, however rudimentary. I could even just bemoan my own tendency to accept, as authorities, folks who have insufficient claim to it. Not that either of those angles would relate to the media. Or to politicians. Or to incomprehensible experts of any ilk.
But, you know, it’s been a full week of settling into our snowbird digs and taking five guided and unguided birding walks, capped off (completely unnecessarily, in my view) with a bout of not-the-bird-but-stomach flu. Talk about the dominance of “local irregularities of motion.”
So I think I’ll just leave it there for now.
But the next time I hear something a bit, well, questionable, unlikely, or excessive, I might just pack my bags, head south once more, and conduct my own tests. Metaphorically, that is. After all, God (er, “Scientific American”) has spoken. And I think I got the 5% that matters.
An empirical test could help.