Optical Detection Coriolis Force
Date: Winter 2012-2013
I know that the Coriolis effect affects the movement of air right here on earth with its rotation, but does it affect light? For example, if you spun a given cubic space of air really fast, would light be bound by the Coriolis effect?
Thanks for the question. The Coriolis effect should not influence the travel of light since light travels through matter and vacuum (i.e., space). Remember that light travels 186,282 miles in one second; that is very fast. So, the brief answer to your question is that the Coriolis effect should not influence the propagation of light.
However, I can think about an optical illusion involving light that you may be alluding to. The very fast spinning of a cube may cause a gradient in the density of the air. This gradient results in the light being refracted so that it appears there is some type of Coriolis force. One place where this may happen is in the gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. I could see this being used as a diagnostic tool in monitoring centrifuge operation.
I hopes this helps. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
Click here to return to the Physics Archives
Update: November 2011