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Tea Making Defies Physics

Tea Making Defies Physics

There is one “immutable” law of physics that things float downstream – things flow down rather than up. Scientists have found though, that tea making defies physics. They have demonstrated that particles can actually defy this conventional “law” and actually float upstream.

This all started with a cup of tea. In 2008, undergraduate Sebastian Bianchini of the University of Havana, Cuba, was pouring hot water from a kettle into a cup of teal eaves. While doing this, he noticed that some of the leaves had somehow managed to make their way into his kettle. Bianchini mentioned this phenomenon to physicist Ernesto Altshuler at his university and the two ran some tests. They did not publish their findings – but Mr Altshuler didn’t forget about the strange phenomenon.

In 2012, along with physicist Troy Shinbrot of Rutgers University, New Jersey, he managed to replicate the observation. The team used two large tanks placed next to each other. One was one centimetre higher than the other, with a channel running from one to the other.They added chalk and the Cuban mate tea leaves that Mr Bianchini used to the bottom tank. Within a few seconds, particles headed up the channel to the upper tank.

It is thought by the physicists that this phenomenon is due to the surface tension of the downstream water. When it’s disturbed by particles, it can produce the force that pushes them upstream. This knowledge could have practical applications – such as demonstrating that rogue particles could sneak into pipettes used for scientific experiments, or back into clean water after waste has been discharged. And to think, this all started with a cup of loose leaf tea.

Next time you make a cup of tea, remember you could be defying physics.

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