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Gallery 8

Coriolis

The coriolis exhibit, showing a white bench top with a circular hole cut out, and a stainless steel bowl with water components and a handle in the centre of the hole.
The coriolis exhibit, showing a white bench top with a circular hole cut out, and a stainless steel bowl with water components and a handle in the centre of the hole.

When water moves a certain way due to rotation, what you observe is called the Coriolis effect.

How it works

Spin the water jet fountain and watch how the jets of water seem to spray in unexpected directions.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Before you spin the fountain, how will the water jets spray when the fountain is stationary then spinning?
  • What have you've heard about water spinning down a drain in the Northern and Southern hemisphere. We should research this and find out if it's true.

Background

The Corilis fountain has water jet nozzles on the central spindle (in the middle) and on the outer nozzles (near the circumference) that spray jets of water angled back towards the centre. When the fountain is spun around, the jets of water travel in unexpected ways, demonstrating the Coriolis effect.

The Coriolis effect is what you observe when water moves a certain way due to rotation. Water heading towards the centre seems to move the wrong way. This is because the outer water nozzle is moving faster. This is the called the Coriolis effect. It makes some objects in rotating systems appear to take a curved path.

This animation shows how water spraying from the jet nozzles 'behave' within the Coriolis exhibit. See if you can follow the flow!

Finding the science in your world

The Coriolis force causes cyclones and ocean currents to spin in different directions on opposite sides of Earth's equator.

The Earth’s rotation is only strong enough to affect large or long-scale systems. This means that the Earth’s rotation does not control the way your sink drains or the direction your toilet flushes in the northern or southern hemisphere.