Have you ever wondered how the Coriolis Effect was discovered?
You know, the Coriolis Effect. The reason why water swirls clockwise down your toilet in one hemisphere, but counter-clockwise in another.
It’s not just something that sounds like the title of an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.
But seriously, have you ever stopped to think how the study of the Coriolis Effect came to be?
Wondered at the circumstances that led to a fundamental advancement in our understanding of the laws of fluid dynamics and Newtonian physics?
Because come on, who stares in a toilet, watches the contents swirl away, notes the direction of the swirling, and then asks himself (of course it’s a man), “I wonder if it swirls the same way everywhere on Earth?”
I mean, imagine the grant proposal written expressly to explore this phenomenon:
PURPOSE OF GRANT:
To settle, once and for all, the age-old question: Do sh*t storms blow the same way regardless of location on Earth?
- Weekly stipend for food and housing, for an estimated 104 weeks
- One high-speed film camera
- One tripod for high-speed camera
- Film and processing for high-speed camera (this is in the days before digital, mind you)
- New state-of-the-art, low friction, remote-control flushing toilet with camera mount (in case tripod breaks)
- Cleaning supplies to eliminate secondary variables with respect to water flow and direction
- Round trip air fare (first class to minimize effects of discomfort, jet lag on effectiveness of scientist performing observations) from Western Hemisphere to Eastern Hemisphere, including freight costs for state-of-the-art toilet
- Years and years of therapy after spending so much time watching toilets flush
BENEFIT TO SCIENCE/SOCIETY:
Enable advances in toilet design to reduce over-spray and potential for unhygienic bathrooms. Potential military applications as well.
And then, then, come the years of scoffing at the so-called ‘Coriolis Effect’ when the resultant paper, creating a huge splash in the scientific community upon publication, is discredited as a fraud when no one else can duplicate the results.
Because that misguided male grad student falsified his data when, after months of staring at frame after frame of high-speed film showing turds circling in a bowl, he couldn’t see any difference between the two hemispheres.
Years later, historians wondered what it was that led him to lie.
Was it an accident? Did he inadvertently flip over the film from the Eastern hemisphere, creating a mirror image he mistook for an actual change in direction?
Was it a crack in his sanity? Did he delude himself into thinking a difference existed?
Was it the result of a feeble mind, unable to cope with the facts in front of him?
Did he fear for his freedom and reputation when the university oversight committee, catching wind of some project to capture toilet flushes with a high-speed camera, launched an audit?
Or was it the fact that much of his funding came from trial lawyers involved in a class action lawsuit against the major toilet manufacturers, claiming that water flow was not properly taken into account in the ubiquitous tank and bowl design, leading to unnecessary over-spray and unsanitary bathroom conditions?
We’ll never know. The scientist in question tore up his journals and notes and flushed them all down the toilet right before he was served with a search warrant.
Of course, as always with Science, the story doesn’t end here.
Years later, after the lawyers settled their lawsuit, along comes some tree-hugging hippy scientist from UC Santa Cruz or the like who gets this ‘far out’ idea that maybe the comparison should be between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, man.
One grant proposal, sixteen months of globe-hopping observational experiments, and one labeled-on-the-inside-to-avoid-film-flipping toilet later, we now know that toilets do swirl in different directions, depending on whether you’re in the Northern or Southern hemisphere.
That’s how Science works, and why most Western religions now revere the Coriolis Effect.
The whole thing makes me sick. I don’t even want to know how many of my tax dollars went into this farce.
All I know is now I can’t flush a toilet without wondering, “Is the water flowing in the right direction? Are the pressurized jets on this low flow toilet altering the trajectory, and if so, and if enough people are using this model of low flow toilet at the same time, could the Earth be knocked out of its orbit?”
It’s questions like these that keep me up at nights.
Ya know, this also sounds like a solid premise for a grant proposal…