File this under juvenile. When I called my husband from Peru on my first trip to South America, he asked me a question that I had often wondered about but never witnessed firsthand. Do the toilets in the Southern Hemisphere really flush the opposite way from the Northern Hemisphere?
I was willing to give it a try. Trouble was, I had forgotten which way the toilet drained back home in Seattle. So while we were on the phone, Don went into the bathroom and flushed the (empty, of course) toilet. “Counter clockwise!” he reported.
Lima´s turn for this impromptu science experiment. I went into the well-appointed bathroom of the Liberator Hotel and gave it a flush. It bubbled and for a second I worried that the hotel had a LEED-sanctioned toilet that drained in a special way. But no. Down the water swirled……Clockwise!
Turns out there´s a fancy physics term often ascribed the phenomenon: the Coriolis effect. Moving objects appear to deflect differently when they are viewed from a rotating reference frame (in this case, the Earth). It´s most often applied to meteorology, where winds and ocean currents have been observed to act differently north and south of the Equator.
(I am so bad at explaining science – for a more complete description, check out the Wikipedia entry on Coriolis)
Alas, it seems that Coriolis isn´t the actual reason behind my Lima toilet behaving differently than the Seattle drain back home. Snopes.com has an interesting article that states that the basins and drains installed in your bathroom have more to do with the direction of the swirl instead of centrifugal forces.
Oh well. It was fun to do the experiment anyway. For my next trick, I´ll put Don´s hand in a bowl of water while he´s sleeping, just to see what happens.