5 Everyday Things That Go Totally Nuts in Zero Gravity

Humanity has a strange tendency to think of physics in terms of how it operates on Earth, despite the fact that our little ball of mud amounts to little more than a speck of roach poop in the grand scheme of things. If you really want to see how physics works, you need to go zero gravity, man.

Zero-G environments are totally a part of our physical universe, and an overwhelmingly dominating part at that. This means ye olde laws of physics are totally at work in there, too. They just like to operate like a goddamn maniac.

#5. Fire Turns into Floating Spheres of Glowing Energy

Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Before reading further, take a moment to go light something in your house on fire. That flame looks like that due to gravity, specifically the fact that hot air rises. The flame is fueled by oxygen, letting the excrement of carbon dioxide and water vapor heat up and lower in density. Eventually, they float away, only to be replaced with fresh, cool oxygen to be murder-burned. However, take that shit to zero gravity, and things will get weird. Fireball weird.

Via hckrwolf
Fwwwooooooooffff!

Yep, that there is a space flame. In zero gravity, puny Earth things like buoyancy and convection don't exist. So when you light a match, the carbon dioxide goes nowhere. It just gathers around the flame like hobos around a barrel fire. Meanwhile, the flame keeps happily engorging itself with oxygen until the hobo CO2 all around it snuffs it out.

Via Reclusland.com
Left: Normal flame. Right: Awesome ball of space fire.

That flame shape you're used to can only happen because the fire forces hot air to rise upward. Since none of that really happens in zero gravity, the flame just expands in all directions in a desperate search for random oxygen particles. Essentially, this means fires in zero gravity are lower in temperature, consume less oxygen, are dimmer in terms of brightness ... and totally float around like fireballs if you, say, ignite a floating drop of gasoline.

Via Discovery.com
How astronauts resist the temptation to start mage duels the second their spacecraft leaves the atmosphere, we'll never know.

By the way, you get the exact same effect if you boil water.

Via Doublemazaa

Since your house is engulfed in flame by now, you'll notice that any standing liquids have probably begun to boil. Your average water boiling session on Earth produces lots of tiny bubbles that float up to the top, but in space, that pesky lack of buoyancy and convection strikes again. The bubbles just sort of sit in the middle of the scalding hot liquid, refusing to move until they eventually form one giant, floating Voltron bubble:

Don't you just want to stick your hand in there? We guess it's the ability to resist such temptations that qualifies people to be astronauts.

#4. Liquid Surface Tension Becomes Hardcore

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Here's a fun experiment for your next 30-minute shower crying session: Clench your fist, dunk it in the water, and try to capture a film of water in the circle formed by your thumb and index finger. Chances are that whatever tiny amount of water you can capture almost immediately bursts away as surface tension loses the fight with gravity. Awesome, yes?

No. Of course it isn't. But once you remove gravity from the equation, shit gets real.

Public Domain, Courtesy of NASA
We think he's saying something about being a "space god."

In zero gravity, surface tension holds strong, and that same small puddle of water would be a sticky pool with the apparent consistency of jelly.

Via NASA
There's no way he's not making a "bloop bloop" noise when he does that.

This is because gravity on Earth causes the liquid to fall into the multiple nooks and crannies of your misshapen mitt, until the fickle film of water bursts. In zero gravity, surface tension has no forces keeping it down; the water just maintains its cohesiveness and doesn't budge unless you specifically shake it off. That is, if you can; these zero-gravity water films are like little sheets of clingy rubber, and even vigorous shaking may not be enough to remove them.

And if you want to get really freaky, you can just use colored liquids:

Via NASA
Now all we need is a black light and some club music.

Tell us that doesn't look like a little color themed X-Man two seconds away from seriously ruining someone's day.

#3. Sound Gets Physical

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When gravity goes missing, other forces step up to the plate, allowing scientists to study them in ways they never thought possible. Sound is no exception.

Via Physics Central
Um ... Don, what do you have there? You're frightening us.

The man above is veteran NASA astronaut and ISS chemical engineer Donald Pettit handily engineering a vacuum cleaner into a didgeridoo in order to demonstrate sound waves hitting spheres of water. The man below is veteran NASA astronaut and ISS chemical engineer Donald Pettit getting carried away.

Via Physics Central
Um ... DON?!

Now deeply entrenched in native mode, Pettit uses his electric didgeridoo thing to blast some spheres of water into ... WHAT THE SHIT IS HAPPENING?

Via Physics Central
"It's attacking! Run!"

Man, that water is pissed. The overpowering oscillations of sound easily break that nasty, rubbery surface tension of the weightless liquid, making tiny droplets spout off in all directions. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Varying frequencies of sound waves in zero gravity can (and totally will) create anything from subtle rippling to total insanity.

Via Physics Central

Via Physics Central

Here, let's witness the birth of the dubstep golem, brought to you by some corn starch and hard, hard bass:

Via Phobosuchus1
And the devil.

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