Sunday, April 13, 2008


Happy Birthday to Patty! Patty celebrated her birthday yesterday by going to the horse races at Charlestown. This sparked a discussion on why horse races are always run counter-clockwise. Paul shared that once he bet on a horse that turned the wrong way out of the gate, ran clockwise and crossed the finish line first. Unfortunately, he didn't win since the horse was running in the wrong direction. This made Don and Bill T. wonder if horses run in the opposite direction in Australia because they had heard that toilets flow in the opposite direction below the equator. (I know, I didn't get the connection either).

This discussion made me wonder whether toilets really do flush in the opposite direction in Australia. I learned that the swirling effect (the Coriolis force) will be swamped out by the shape of the toilet or if the jets encourage a "contrary" swirl. Turns out Australian toilets have two different flush selections and that most send water down the sides of the toilet bowl simultaneously so no swirl direction can be observed. However, if you just take a big funnel with a small hole, fill it up with water, let the water go still, then unplug the hole and let it drain out, you will get the Coriolis force and it will be clockwise "down-under" Australia, counter-clockwise here in North America. See the video in the post below.

Back to the horse racing..... turns out races are run counter-clockwise only in the U.S. and Canada. In the UK, France, Hong Kong and Australia horseraces run clockwise. Auto races in the UK also do, but am not sure about races in other countries that also drive on the right side of the road (France) as in the U.S. The reason why baseball players run the bases counter clockwise along with NASCAR, INDY, horse racing, dogs, running counter clockwise etc., has a lot to do with the American Revolution. Early Americans hated the British so much they wanted to do almost eveything opposite to their rules. (Politics again!)

For NASCAR, it more likely due to the rotation of the earth. In the Northern hemisphere, racing counterclockwise pulls the front nose of the car down. In the Southern hemisphere, cars racing counterclockwise cannot reach the same speed as the car wants to lift.

So Happy Birthday, Patty! Aren't you sorry that you ever mentioned going to the races and started all this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is amazing what we learn at Sam's.Who knew the depth of knowledge residing in Catonsville. Add this to our trivia collection.

Glad you enjoyed the day Patti.