May The Force Be With You

Dancers in pirouette, roulette tables, eddies in a stream, the trade winds, and the Gulf Stream obey it . . .

I was fussing with my climbing ivy plant the other day, tucking stubborn shoots around supports, but also  being careful to follow the ‘natural’ twist  the Ivy wanted to take, and  as I did so,   I mused over the ramifications that  cosmic force, that we call Coriolis, making  counter-clockwise ‘right,’ and clockwise the ‘wrong’ way.

And with no exceptions, either.  Well, I  take that back,  for if  you cross the Equator,  into the southern, (or northern) hemisphere, there is an  immediate 180 Degree switch into the Rule’s  exact opposite law.

It also awed  me to realize the same force that made my vine go  ‘its own way’, no matter how I might try to force it another,  is the same powerful force that aviators, sailors and astronauts must also learn to cope with.

And making the whole thing more wonderful and almost unbelievable is that if you live north of the Equator and move to the south side of the equator, everything switches to the exact opposite way. See my above words, and each time I think of this, I wish there were someone to tell me if it’s an abrupt ‘change’ at that thin line of the equator, or if there are a few miles of ‘waffling’, giving us a few miles of a trial and error’ time of finding ‘which’ law, the North or the South,  is going to work?

Think how long it must have taken sailors, and later pilots, to learn to circle a storm by flying to its right, (going with the wind, instead of to the left which would be against it.) Pilots trained south of the equator are naturally taught the opposite and it is one of the basics any flyer must quickly learn if they go into the ‘other’ side of the globe.

This phenomenon was the cause of many a fatal accident in the maelstrom of WW II air fighting before these basic Laws of the Universe were discovered and made known.

Of course, you probably know more about this force than I do, but still in my elementary way, I plod along. And if it is new to you, that basic power is called Coriolis. Read on and see what it means.

Your vines grow counter clockwise and it is ‘right’ for them to do so and your efforts in trying to change them is useless. The water swirling down the drains from a full bathtub, sink and our toilets all agree.  And watch your dogs and see how they observe the identical rule as they circle to ‘make their bed.’  Dancers as they pirouette, roulette tables, eddies in a stream, the trade winds and the Gulf Stream pouring its pathway across the Atlantic, all obey this planetary law.

It comes, as you may know or guess, from the force made by the earth turning beneath us. We shoot a man to the moon, but we don’t aim where the moon is when the shot is made. No, men who understand this force to its ultimate (?) strength, take care to aim the capsule to where the moon will be, in relation to the earth, when the arrival time is scheduled.

During World War I, records tell us the Germans knew, but didn’t understand  this law, but they knew enough, when shooting  their “Big Bertha” cannon, only 70 miles to Paris, their goal, they aimed it a mile to the left to correct for the distance the world would turn in that short three minute time lag.

And a rocket fired to New York from the North Pole, unless adjustments made would land near Chicago after an hour’s flight. For in that hour, the earth’s turning would put the Windy City exactly where the Big Apple was. And we don’t even know or feel that we’re buzzing through space.

It is why an airplane flying east (moving faster than the earth) is lighter than the same plane going west; why a pendulum clock, taken to a northern country runs fast and it is the secret (but don’t ask me why) of the gyroscopic compass.

People at the time of the Mayflower knew the trip to the New World would be faster than the return to the Mother Country and adjusted their provisions that way.  I doubt if they knew why, but know they did, and careful plans were made to provide the amounts of food and water.  More needed one way and less the other, giving them more space for Cargo and other commercial products.

Coriolis…a new word? It was to me, but I read lots of stuff and found that while the word people invented to describe it, was once new, the force it tells of has been with us since God created heaven and earth and while you can’t rise in the sky to feel the constant trade winds, can’t see the adjustment made on a moon flight, or can’t travel south of the equator to test it out, you can still see its force.

Watch your Morning Glories twist and turn. Watch your bath water going down the drain, ask any air pilot. Coriolis, unseen, unfelt, mysterious, but oh so real.

And I have no doubt that some smart men and women are, or have already, studied to figure out how it affects you and me in our daily lives.  The way we walk? Our car’s miles-per-gallon of gas?  I’m smart (?) enough to know that if it affects the birds, animals and vines, why should we be ignored?

The name is used for the dozens of products on sale that ‘guarantee’ to straighten and reverse the natural curl found in some human hair.

Coriolis. Know it or not, or even give a dang about it, it’s here, and always has been and always will be.  Next time you take a bath, take time to wait a moment and just try to change how the water goes down the drain.  Good luck.

2 thoughts on “May The Force Be With You

  1. I love this. I keep wondering if at the equator or near it, does water in a drain just go straight down or if the drain is moving would the water change direction as the equator is crossed.
    Moreover, the time is nearing when day equals night, the Equinox, I look forward to these dates as they are harbingers of seasonal change, I can see, also, without a reason not to, men worship the sun, animals too, in the Winter they find the warmth.
    Just as a side note, the equator has been described as an imaginary lion running around the Earth’s middle.. May it always be steady. J

  2. Jim, your comments brought up memories for me. I read a lot, as you know, and I read where, during WW 11, our part of t he war was, at first all in the northern hemisphere, but gradually it went south to Austrailia and the Islands there. Below the Equator, and many pilot’s ; lives were lost in aerial combat there because they did not know of the switch of Power’s pathway, and as the pilots would figure their need of fuel while using the same way they had figured it in the northern hemisphere. And that way they often did not have enough fuel to get back to their base. They learned, but it was a costly teaching. I wish some one COULD tell us of the speed of the switch at the equator, or if it waffled, or stood still. I tried to find some answer on Google, but am not talented enough to get my answer. My mind s eeks further t han it knows how to delve. So good to see y our name. Keep it up. Ethel

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