Here’s an awesome physics experiment teachers need to start running in high school science classes: sticking ice cream cones into whirlpools. Yes, it may sound boring as heck—as well as a waste of a perfectly good waffle cone—but the results are spectacular. And by “spectacular,” we mean endlessly hypnotic.
The ice cream cone swirly, which comes via Digg, was originally posted to imgur by user, Cheesemadoodles. The original video was actually posted last year, but has recently gone viral on Reddit and TikTok, as people come to learn of the magnificence of a swirling cone in a sink. Unfortunately, however, Cheesemadoodles provided no explanation of why he attempted this next-level feat of playing with one’s food. (We’d blame it on quarantine boredom, but again, this happened in 2019.)
If you’re thinking this swirling water, like all swirling water on Earth, is due to the Coriolis effect—that is, the inertial force generated by Earth’s rotation—you’ll be happy to know that that is most definitely not the case. According to physics teacher and U.S. physics team coach, Mark Eichenlaub, the spinning motion of water down a drain is due mostly to “the net angular momentum the water has before it starts draining, which is pretty much random.” Angular momentum is the rotational equivalent of linear momentum.
Astronaut Mike Fossum demonstrates conservation of angular momentum.
While Eichenlaub notes that the Coriolis effect almost always has a negligible influence on the way water spins down a drain—there are apparently very precise experiments where it is indeed the Coriolis effect that makes water in a sink or tub spin—it does come into play when looking at swirling H2O on a much larger level; namely, a hurricane. Hurricanes do spin in different directions in the different hemispheres thanks to the Coriolis effect. Although it may be a while before we can fly in an ice cream cone big enough to drop into the center of one of those.
What do you think about this ice cream cone in swirling water? Are you going to try this experiment literally right this minute, or are you saving your ice cream cones for… ice cream? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Feature image: itsjohnfoley