My Whole Life is a Lie

04 Dec

For over fourteen years (until about an hour ago), I’ve believed in the apparent lie that the famed Coriolis Effect was responsible for toilets and sinks draining one way in the Northern Hemisphere and the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.  My seventh grade “Earth Sciences” teacher Mr. White told me this.  Lisa Simpson confirmed it.  I saw it reflected serenely each morning in the face of the Porcelain Goddess.  And now I have been informed over a plate of mediocre lasagna and awesome pumpkin pie that it’s all a big fabrication. 

Iceland Coriolis

(Note: the water in my toilet and the events in this picture are entirely uncorrelated)

Is it shocking that my middle school teacher got it wrong?  Not so much.  Do I really care which way the water goes down the drain?  Not in the least.  Do I feel like this is another reason for disbanding all academic institutions and preaching education from the street corners?  Yeah, a bit.

This reminds me of when my friend Jasmine found out that islands don’t float.


Posted by on December 4, 2006 in Alchemy


6 responses to “My Whole Life is a Lie

  1. Dan

    December 4, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    According to my cousin the physics teacher, they’ve also determined that Bernoulli’s principle is not what keeps aircrafts in the air. What does? They’re not sure, but at the moment, it seems to be simple Newtonian physics.

  2. halfawake

    December 4, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    It’s funny… The scientific arguments that are used to debunk these myths about the coriolis effect and the airplane wing are pretty simple sounding… But if anyone had said they didn’t believe these principles in middle school they probably would have failed the exam! At all levels of education we’re taught to sound so sure about the answers, but nobody really knows that much after all.
    If anyone else wants to kill anything I learned before 9th grade, now would be a good time :-).

  3. halfawake

    December 4, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    In case it wasn’t clear from my post, the Coriolis Effect has no bearing on the direction which water flows down a drain. It can (apparently!) go either way in either hemisphere.

  4. weirleader

    December 6, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    yeah – heard that before (about the coriolis effect)… but not before believing it for way too long! I sympathize.

    interesting about Bernoulli’s principle.

    but whaddya mean islands don’t float? 🙂

  5. fracas

    December 8, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Islands don’t float? I’m crushed.

  6. icedmocha

    December 12, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    And, believe it or not, no one can adequately explain why the shower curtain billows in and tries to cling to me while I’m showering. Ah, science, don’t desert me now!


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