This is What Happens When You Wring a Washcloth in Space

This is What Happens When You Wring a Washcloth in Space

Watch astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrate the physics of soaking wet fabric in zero g.

Aboard the ISS, hundreds of miles above the earth, there is important science to be done. There are burning questions to be answered, some of which will be vital to the future of humanity. There is also Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who, with his Twitter client open and a camera in hand, seems bent on having as much fun as possible before they make him come home. Recently, Hadfield saw fit to answer a question posed by some students who wondered what would happen if you wrung a sopping wet washcloth in zero gravity.

The answer, of course, comes down to surface tension. Like Hadfield recently demonstrated as a response to the question of whether or not you can cry in space, the cohesive force between water molecules will pull them towards the center of the mass, forming floating spheres or dome like masses. In the case of a wrung cloth, it turns out that you get a watery tube. This is all because of the absence of gravity, or rather, the microgravity, at work on the station. As you watch, you can see little spheres of water get flung off by the force of Hadfield's moving hands.

If you like that science, check out this science - our weekly science show, Geekend Update:

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Space is cool. Well I did admittedly wonder what happened to those little droplets that went flying off into the station that you would hope don't hit anything sensitive.... but still, space is cool.

GO HYDROGEN BONDS, GO!

There's an entire channel of this?

DAMMIT ESCAPIST, I'M SUPPOSED TO BE STUDYING.

I'm curious what the policy is on the ISS over floating droplets of water.

I mean, Don't look like its a particuarly water-happy environment, what with all those electornics.

Building on that: A flume to eject astronauts into space would be totally badass.

That's...Actually not that far off from what I expected. but DAMN is it cool.

I'm surprised they use handheld mics in space. Use some douchey Gwen Stefani mics!

I have no problem with my tax money going to fund NASA as long as they (or in this case their partners) keep videotaping water in zero gravity. Granted, it's not scientifically important and I've seen it a hundred times, but it will never stop being one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

Me55enger:
I'm curious what the policy is on the ISS over floating droplets of water.

Given that all liquids will do that, and that he doesn't seem too concerned, I imagine everything's reasonably waterproofed to the point where it's no different than Earth: A spill's not the end of the world but if you go throwing the stuff around with abandon someone is going to smack you.

This is a great idea, but all I could think the entire time I was watching the video was "Didn't someone to think to pack a clip on microphone set like they use in talkshows?"

Worst. Tampon comercial. EVER!

Seriously, I really love Chris hadfield. He really push the interactivity between ordinary people and astronauts with his twitter account, like his duet from space with the barenaked ladies

Hrm, quite interesting.

Did not do what I would have assumed.

However I got to wonder if NASA is running out of things to try "In space" because I saw this and immediately was reminded of

Have you ever tried milking a cat...... In spaaaace?

I love the way he just kept droppiing things and letting them float. If I was in space, I'd waste a lot of time pretending I was psychic.

Thanks to high school physics I expected that to happen, but knowing about it from a book and actually seeing it are very different things. That was just awesome and makes me wish that I could go into space even more!

My my, I do so love space.

That was just thrilling to watch, thank you.

That is awesome. Fucking Science!

That is so cool!

I am Evil Smurf and I approve this message. SPAAAAAAAAAACE Water 2016!

seeing a man living in space, even in a space station = mind blown

I feel dumb for not predicting that, since I learned all about hydrogen bonds in high school chemistry (and presumably also surface tension in general at some point). Still, I think the thrilled surprise of seeing how the water behaved made that worth it.

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I feel like instead of space it should say zero gravity, if he was really in space we wouldn't be able to hear him talk...
...because he'd be dead. But also the lack of air pressure might make a difference in how the water behaves.

OlasDAlmighty:

I feel like instead of space it should say zero gravity, if he was really in space we wouldn't be able to hear him talk...
...because he'd be dead. But also the lack of air pressure might make a difference in how the water behaves.

I could be wrong, but wouldn't the water just freeze in real "space"? Still might be cool to watch the water react to being exposed to vacuum, but not as much fun for the astronaut.

I have never seen Zero-gravity in real life before. That was awesome!

And THIS is what happens when some jerk sprays water all over the inside of a sealed, heavily oxygenated environment, filled with delicate yet powerful electronics. "Whoops! BBBZZZZZTTTTTTTTTTT!!! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! ARRRRRGGGGG!!! KABOOM!!"

"Absolute zero."

Hey you're no looker yourself there, Captcha

DestinyCall:

OlasDAlmighty:

I feel like instead of space it should say zero gravity, if he was really in space we wouldn't be able to hear him talk...
...because he'd be dead. But also the lack of air pressure might make a difference in how the water behaves.

I could be wrong, but wouldn't the water just freeze in real "space"? Still might be cool to watch the water react to being exposed to vacuum, but not as much fun for the astronaut.

Nope, it's more likely to boil in the absence of an atmosphere. The only way water could lose enough heat to freeze would be by radiation, which is really slow, not to mention the water still intercepts sunlight and can heat up from that, plus of course the absence of air pressure lowers the boiling point of water.

EDIT: Looking at a phase diagram for water shows that it will absolutely definitely boil, because at very low pressures water cannot exist as a liquid, and it boils at points well below what would normally freeze it.

DestinyCall:

I could be wrong, but wouldn't the water just freeze in real "space"? Still might be cool to watch the water react to being exposed to vacuum, but not as much fun for the astronaut.

No, it would rapidly boil-off into a gas due to the lack of any air pressure. Furthermore there is nothing in space to take the heat away from the water (a vacuum is the perfect insulator as it is not a thermally conductive medium) so the only loss of thermal energy would be through radiation which is a painfully slow process.

So, what happens when you wring a washcloth in space? Apparently less than when you do it on Earth... :p

Oh... and I though it was actually going to be in the vaccuum of space... I was going to get geeky and say, 'well the washcloth would be dry because the liquid would have boiled', but as it's in the pressurised cabin I am out of luck... do'h!

(Yes... that was shameless! :P)

Neat....and exactly what I thought would happen. I must say that I didn't envision it looking like that though. Very, very cool.

I spent the whole video watching the important-looking computers, cables, and equipment behind him, thinking:

Space station + lots of important equipment to keep everyone alive + dude throwing water about = Houston we have a problem.

LOL. Cool video though.

image

Why ISS no look like dis?

 

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