The Coriolis Effect

If i’ve got this right, the Coriolis Force is a correction physicists use when calculating equations of motion – it isn’t a real force but a factor used to correct for the relative shift in coordinate frames. While the standard (newtonian) laws of motion can predict, for example, where a cannonball will land if fired with a certain force in a certain direction, they don’t take account that, while the thing is in flight, the reference frame (ie where the earth below is) is changing. So, you have to add a correction in – the coriolis effect.

It’s not an insignificant effect – for example nineteenth century gunnery tables, which the navy used to calculate the direction and force of cannon fire, took into account the coriolis effect. When, in the first world war, the British navy fought a battle in the falklands they found all their shot landed 100 yards to the left. Their calculations took account of the coliolis effect, but only as it works in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere the effect is reversed (which is why the water goes the other way down the plug-hole) and so all the aim of the cannon was by a factor of twice the anticipated coliosis effect.

I hope i’ve got it right – i’m not a physicist, so apologies, I’m writing this from memory from an otherwise unremarkable lecture i went to last night – but, basically, how cool is that?

One reply on “The Coriolis Effect”

Comments are closed.