Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Swirling for Glory

You can take the nerd out of the US, but you can't take the toilet humor out of the nerd

I promise this will be one of the last “toilet/underwear” related posts for a while. I hope. So as Jason alluded to in his previous post, I've been on a quest to properly document the toilet swirl action in the southern hemisphere. What started as a simple task ended up being a tad more challenging due to toilet technologies down here.

As the story goes, liquid draining in the southern hemisphere will drain counterclockwise, as opposed to clockwise north of the equator. This, I presume, has to do with the earth's rotational inertia, a couple of Newton's laws (namely F=ma and that things that are at rest tend to want to stay at rest), fluid dynamics, and the fact that the earth turns in the opposite direction when viewed from the south vs the north end. I'm too lazy to actually look up the theory, but I'm pretty sure I'm close.

Collecting the Data

Attempt #1 was done shortly after landing in Auckland. The video below the fold shows some swirl, but I was somewhat dissatisfied with the clarity of the result. Unlike the US, toilets here don't swirl as much as they flush refuse straight down the pipes. Bummer.

Fast forward two days and about 10 toilets later, I finally had to concede that properly capturing this phenomenon in a toilet will be all but impossible. So on to the sink we go, courtesy of a suggestion of Chris Phillips, one of Jason's friends. I first start with the sink in our hostel, fill it up, and pull the plug. See below for results, which isn't bad but a tad fast given the excellent drainage system in our hostel. So it's a bit tricky to properly capture the swirl. I wanted to slow it down and add some kind of indicator.

My friend Brian Blanchard suggested using a Baby Ruth bar for additional effect. Good idea. Except there are no Baby Ruth bars to be found. I also considered a snicker bar, but was somewhat concerned that its density may be too great to “float”. Plus they tend to be a bit pricey for me. Luckily, when we first arrived at the hostel, each bed came with a welcoming Crunchies bar. A Crunchie bar is basically a fluffy, crunchy core covered with chocolate which makes it delightfully crunchy and light. I had already eaten my welcoming gift, so the quest to purchase said product ensued, which was achieved after about a 5 minute walk from the hostel and dishing out NZD 0.45, or about 30 US cents. Perfect.

And so, I present to you, the final two videos illustrating the swirling action is the southern hemisphere. The first video was done by just pulling the plug, which was a tad too fast for my taste. The second attempt was done by narrowly cocking the plug, which finally produced the desired effect.

Swirling a tad too fast:

Final Release!

Disclaimer: No, I didn't eat the bar afterwards. Mainly because it was 9am and I had just brushed my teeth.


Janice said...

Out of curiosity, I followed the Chruncie link and found this tidbit of info:

In Australia and New Zealand, Cadbury Crunchie bar is widely known for having the country's longest-running television advertisement, the "Crunchie Train Robbery" which won many award and ran in unchanged form for over 20 years from the late 1970s.

Here is a link to the ad:

Chris said...

Congratulations on your research

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