Weird Science Weekly: physics reveals how beer tapping prank works

Weird science happens every day, all around us. This week, we have three of the weirdest examples, including the science behind beer tapping, how ice forms giant spinning discs in rivers and why religious ecstasy may provide clues to how weather works...

Physicists show how that annoying 'beer tapping' prank works

Have you ever been a victim of that prank where some joker at the party taps the top of your beer bottle and the whole thing foams up all over the place? The loss of the beer might be inexcusable, but you can console yourself with this little tidbit, as physicists explain exactly why it happens.

Turns out, you can also freeze a beer this way. Just keep the beer sealed and still as you cool it down to below its actual freezing temperature. The beer will remain liquid as long as it isn't agitated, but the moment it gets a sharp rap, bubbles form and freezing occurs. Check out the Mythbusters team testing this out here.

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Ice forms giant rotating circle in North Dakota river

The way that water flows can create some really neat patterns, but without ice on the surface, you rarely get to see them so clearly and on such a large scale. Every once in awhile, especially when natural eddy currents form in the flow, you can get 'ice discs' — where a fairly solid mass of ice just sits in one part of the river and spins, forming a nearly perfect circle. These have been seen in other places in the world, but this particular one was filmed in the Sheyenne River, in North Dakota.

The way this works is that the ice calves off of the shoreline, and the motion of the water flowing past gets the sheet of ice rotating. As it rotates, the edges of the sheet scrape against the ice near the shore and the edges eventually get worn down to a perfect circle. Unless the ice melts, or the whole river freezes across the top, or another ice floe comes down the river to disrupt it, it will just keep spinning there indefinitely.

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Scientist link Whirling Dervishes to the motions of weather

There's a cold front forming on that middle dancer's skirt! (Getty Images)Sufi whirling, the dance that certain Turkish orders perform to reach religious ecstasy, doesn't cause or influence the weather, of course. However, researchers watching how the Dervishes' skirts whirl  have seen the same kinds of patterns that cause storms to spin in particular directions based on what hemishpere they're in.

The whirling skirts are showing the Coriolis effect, the same effect that causes storms to deflect to the right as they move in the northern hemisphere and to the left as they move in the southern hemisphere. Since this effect on storms is due to the rotation of the Earth, it only works on a very large scale (so it doesn't influence which direction the water swirls down your toilet or drain). However, the Whirling Dervishes' skirts are influenced by a scaled-down version of the effect, creating waves and troughs in the material. By examining these motions, the researchers might be able to tell more about the patterns and influences of the effect, and then apply what they learn to the larger atmospheric scales.

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Keep your eyes on the wonders of science, and if you spot anything particularly strange you'd like me to check out for next week, comment below or drop me a line on Twitter!

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