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Anouk Zijlma

Flushing Toilets on the Equator

By January 18, 2013

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equator nanyuki kenyaIn Africa, the equator runs along for almost 2500 miles, passing through 6 countries: Gabon, Republic of Congo, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia. Some travelers have followed this imaginary line from one end of the continent to the other. But it's an arduous journey through rain forests, rivers, lakes and the occasional civil war. Mark Twain wrote a book called Following the Equator, but he failed to actually travel literally along the equator while in Africa.

If you would just like to stand on the equator, your best bet would be to visit Kenya or Uganda. And while you're there, be sure to check the flushing toilet theory, or to be more scientific, the Coriolis effect.

Toilets flushed in the northern hemisphere apparently spin to the right, in the southern hemisphere the water spins left -- this is supposedly caused by the Coriolis effect. And on the equator? It's a straight shot down. You can test this theory if you stay at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club where you cross the equator just by going from your room to the dining hall. You can order a drink at the bar in the southern hemisphere, and pick it up in the northern hemisphere. Or even tee off on the golf course in the northern hemisphere and complete the hole by putting in the southern hemisphere. What fun!

One of the nerdy joys of standing on the actual equator is not looking silly while conducting your own scientific experiment. Fellow traveler Dan Greenspan conducted his experiment using a simple bowl with small hole in the bottom, some water and grass. His water spun to the right when he stepped into the northern hemisphere, to the left in the southern hemisphere, and headed straight down when he was directly on the equator. Thus refuting a BBC report that the Coriolis effect is impossible to measure on such small scale.

January 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm
(1) Richard says:

Sucker. The BBC was correct this one time.
The north/south spin is a very old trap for stupid tourists.
Do the math or even some basic research.

It has been proven to work in Boston as well as the equator.
Use a flat pan with some pepper on the water so you can see.
Then perform the simple magic and voila. It is in the northern hemisphere on one end of the classroom and the south of the equator on the other end of the classroom.
It works anywhere on earth.

January 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm
(2) Marjorie says:

Why the insulting tone to these comments? A suggestion might go a bit further to persuading than invective and name-calling.

A mistake is just a mistake – and on this scale, more on the order of an amusement than a high-stakes error.

May 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm
(3) Fran tattersall says:

Richard, what exactly is the magic needed to change the water flow direction

November 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm
(4) Ulrich says:

The flow direction is caused by how the water is poured into the pan or bucket. At that moment it gets it’s spinning impuls.

That Anouk must have been trapped, you can see from her toilet spinning to the right. Any Low on the northern hemisphere turns left.

If you look through Youtube für Equator Experiments, you can find as many films proving Anouk’s assumption as those proving the contrary. It’s only a nice tourist attraction.

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