July 16, 2009 Issue

Physics To Go 77 - Spinning systems

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Physics in Your World

HyperPhysics: Coriolis Force image
Image credit: Edward Lee; larger image

HyperPhysics: Coriolis Force

You can create an image like this by dripping paint onto a rapidly spinning turntable.

- The outward movement of the paint illustrates the centrifugal force.
- The slight curvature of the outward-moving lines illustrates the Coriolis force (the turntable was spinning clockwise).
- Learn about the Coriolis and centrifugal forces at HyperPhysics: Coriolis Force.

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Physics at Home

Spinning Brains

Try experiencing the Coriolis effect next time you ride on a merry-go-round, just like in this video from the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana.

If you don't have a merry-go-round nearby, you can still see the Coriolis effect through this simulation.  

Read more about the video and also about humans in rotating systems at Spinning Brains, an article from NASA.

(This feature was updated on August 14, 2013.)


From Physics Research

Earth Observatory: The Intertropical Convergence Zone image
Image credit: GOES Project Science Office; larger image

Earth Observatory: The Intertropical Convergence Zone

The band of storm clouds you see near the equator is caused by converging trade winds. This region is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ, a.k.a. "itch").

The trade winds are pushed westward by the Coriolis effect. In the Northern hemisphere, large wind patterns curve toward the right; in the Southern hemisphere, they curve left. You can watch this happen in an animation of NOAA satellite images here.

Worth a Look

Consequences of Rotation for Weather

See Consequences of Rotation for Weather to find out how the turning of the Earth affects weather.

Find out how hurricanes are caused in part by rotation.

(This feature was updated on August 14, 2013.)

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