Photo: Mark Harrison/TikTok

Watch: This Viral Equator Water Experiment Is Fooling Travelers

by Olivia Harden Mar 8, 2022

Sometimes myths start simply by outdated information that science just hadn’t caught up to yet. Maybe you heard this one on The Simpsons or in science class when you were younger: toilets flush the opposite way in the Southern Hemisphere as they do in the Northern — and all other water, for that matter.

@marklharrison Reply to @jackpanter714 alright, explain this one to me then? #uganda #equator #coriolis #effect #itsfake #iknow #allforthememes ♬ original sound – Mark Harrison

This myth in particular is getting traction among travelers to equatorial states who are easily fooled by a creative scam that seems too enticing to be true. While there’s some truth to the water flow differences, it’s also true some local street artists are looking to make a quick buck.

The science behind this is called Coriolis Force, which explains why “as a result of the earth’s rotation deflects moving objects (such as projectiles or air currents) to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere,” according to Merriam Webster. The problem is, this scientific discovery doesn’t apply to small pools of water like the one you see in this TikTok posted by frequent traveler Mark Harrison (who, for his part, adds the tags #itsfake and #iknow). Coriolis Force only applies to bigger objects like hurricanes and cyclones.

So how are these tricksters pulling it off? The blade they say they are using to steady the water is actually doing the opposite by carefully pushing the water one way or another so the flowers appear to be moving in that direction. One paying customer even noted in an explainer on The Points Guy in 2017 that the scam in Uganda wasn’t even offered directly on the border, and that the flowers were floating in the opposite direction than they were supposed to. You can likely find this neat trick in any of the 13 equatorial countries across the world.

And while it could provide for an interesting conversation starter, it’s time to leave this travel myth in the past.

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