The Coriolis Force
You’ve probably heard about the Coriolis Force in relation to your toilet swirling different directions if you live in the northern vs the southern hemisphere.
Ironically, the Coriolis force, while real, is so small that it doesn’t affect your toilet to a noticeable degree. See below.
Why the Coriolis Force has Nothing to do With Your Toilet - https://www.smartereveryday.com/toiletswirl
But while it may not do much to your toilet, on a ring space-station, which constantly spins to create artificial gravity, the Coriolis Force is a big deal. The impact becomes more noticeable as the space station gets smaller and spins faster. Of course, since Earth is very large and rotates once every 24 hours the force is hard to notice. Medea Station on the other hand is only half a kilometer across and rotates once every thirty seconds. That’s an enormous difference. The Coriolis Force pushes objects to the side when they change elevation in a rotating station. Hence elevators are painted with up and down arrows, and anyone moving up or down stairs experiences a nauseating sensation.
But the best part is, the Coriolis Force, despite having very real implications both here and on Earth, isn't real.
So what's actually happening on Medea Station? Well to understand the Coriolis Force you have to realize that different parts of the station rotate at different speeds. Now, you may be thinking, no John it doesn’t, if the inside rotated faster than the outside it would tear itself apart.
So let’s clarify, the whole station rotates as a single unit, which in physics terms means it all has the same angular velocity. It takes everything on the station the same 30 seconds to make one rotation. But if you take a paper plate and spin it, even though the whole plates rotates as a single unit, you’ll notice the outside edge has a lot further to travel distance wise than a point close to the middle. So, in order for the plate to stay together, the outside edge has to move faster, in speed terms (feet per second), than the inside. Medea Station works the same way.
When Devon and Melissa spacewalk their way back to the shuttle bay, they’re right near the center of the Station, the point that everything rotates around. There the station moves at the speed of a slow walk. When they’re standing down in the main station ring though, they’re moving at a blistering 110 miles per hour. If they catch an elevator from the shuttle bay down to the main ring, they have to speed up somehow. Just like you can’t hop into a speeding car from standing still, the Coriolis force pushes to speed them up or slow them down depending on how far they are from the center of the station. It's actually just like if you slam down the gas pedal in your vehicle, depending on how awesome your car is, you'll feel the acceleration shove you back against the seat, pushing your body to accelerate with the car.
Now that's what a smooth elevator would feel like, nice, and relaxing. What about if you're climbing a ladder? Well, all that starting and stopping at each rung is like slamming down the accelerator pedal then letting off it, over and over and over and over... you can see why people might get a little dizzy.
Lastly, earlier I mentioned that the Coriolis Force wasn't a real force, even though it's effects are very noticeable. What that actually means is that the Coriolis Force is an artifact of being in a rotating reference frame. For an observer standing on Medea Station, the Coriolis Force explains why objects behave the way they do, but if you were motionless outside the station, watching, you could just use normal physics, Force = Mass x Acceleration and come to the same conclusions. Similarly, Earth is a rotating reference frame, and since most people prefer to do physics problems with the ground not moving, they include the Coriolis Force. It's not terribly useful if you're just throwing a ball, but for things like artillery trajectories, or predicting hurricanes, it's a big deal.
11/16/2022 09:56:57 pm
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