If You Try to Wring Out a Washcloth in Space, You Will Fail

... But you will have a very fun time in the process.

Water, in space, will not flow. It will not cascade, or drip, or fill a cup. Instead, unimpeded by gravity, water tends to collect in floating blobs that are works of beauty and science at the same time.

But what happens when a) you're in space and b) you find yourself with a wet washcloth and c) you try to wring it out?

The answer is that your attempt will be unsuccessful, because the water wants to stay far more than you want it to go. The latest evidence of that comes from the video above, featuring Space Station astronaut Chris Hadfield and a washcloth that has absorbed a large amount of water. And the liquid, save for a few errant blobs, clings to the washcloth instead of flowing to the ground. It forms a kind of tube over the cloth, as well as over the human hands that hold it. It is not going anywhere.

That's because of the surface tension of the water. Unimpeded by gravity, the water's molecules cohere, creating a kind of liquid gel. It's almost, Hadfield says, "like you had Jell-O on your hands."

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Technology

Just In