Thursday, July 5, 2007

In Which Direction Does a Toilet Flush on the Equator?

Growing up we were taught that due to the rotation of the Earth, while toilets flushed and sink basins drained in a counter-clockwise direction in the United States, that the toilets and sinks would drain in a clockwise direction in Australia. Hurricanes can be seen to hold this same swirling pattern depending upon if it was in the northern or southern hemispheres. It all makes perfect sense, and we even have friends who have been to Australia and swear this is true.

Well, this got your Uncle Frog thinking ... dangerous, I know ... which direction does the toilet flush or the sink basis drain if one was exactly upon the Equator? I presented the question to the group of people with whom we were enjoying our Independence Day celebration and no one knew the answer. We speculated that there would be zero rotation exactly upon the equator when the toilet flushed or the sink basin drained. Mrs. Frog even proposed that toilets might flush exactly the same in Australia, and rejected the premise out of turn. Surely someone knows the answer, so I headed out into the World Wide Web to find the answer.

It turns out from my research thus far, that the actual answer to "Which way does the water in a toilet bowl rotate when it is flushed?" is "A toilet will flush in the direction in which it was designed to flush." WHAT?!?! No fancy explanation about the Earth's rotation or the Coriolis force or hemispheres? Nope.

Apparently this is a very widely held misconception. The rotation of the Earth has an immeasurable affect upon something so small as a bowl of water. Whether a toilet flushes in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction is solely determined by the design of the toilet. Wow, I learn something new every day, and occasionally I even unlearn something new.


Samantha said...

But what about just plain water swirling down a drain?

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