WATCH: Why a Soaking-Wet Washcloth Doesn't Drip in Space

filed under: science, space
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By Chris Gayomali

The cramped micro-gravitational confines of the International Space Station are great if you're the kind of person who loves spicy food or wants a longer lifespan. But the ISS is also fertile testing ground for all sorts of strange and compelling experimentation. In the video below, part of a live taping for high school students watching from Nova Scotia, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrates what it's like to wring out a soaking-wet washcloth when the familiar properties of gravity are removed from the equation. 

You can't just dip a towel in a sink or bucket to get it wet; the water molecules would just float up into the air. (Think of the I.S.S. as in a perpetual state of free fall — that's why everything flies around.) So, after simultaneously juggling a water bag, washcloth, and microphone, Hadfield shows the class what happens when he clenches his fingers and forcibly squeezes H2O out of a cloth. The result is hypnotizing.

"The water squeezes out of the cloth, then because of the surface tension of the water, it runs along the surface of the cloth and up into my hand," he says. "It's almost as if you had Jell-O on your hand."

Hadfield's towel-wringing experiment is just the latest broadcast from the I.S.S. Previously, he showed us why shedding tears in outer space might not be such a good idea after all:

Lucky for the the crew aboard the space station, taking a sponge bath is just one of two showering options: The other and admittedly more fun-sounding method involves using a nozzle to spray themselves before using a vacuum hose to suck all the water droplets off their bodies. (Via NPR)

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April 23, 2013 - 1:00pm
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