Water, Wine…eh, What?

Here is, for your nerdy pleasure, the great Galileo describing an experiment in Two New Sciences, of 1638:
If I fill a round Crystal Bottle with Water, whose Mouth is no bigger than that of a Straw, and after this turn its Mouth downwards, yet will not the Water, altho’ very heavy and prone to descend in Air, nor the Air, as much disposed on the other Hand, as being very light, to ascend thro’ the Water; yet will they not, I say, agree, that that should descend, issuing out of the Mouth, and this ascend, entering in at the same; but both keep their Places, and yield not to each other. But on the contrary, if I apply to the Mouth of this Bottle a little Vessel of Red Wine, which is insensibly less heavy than Water, we shall see it in an Instant gently to ascend by red Streams thro’ the Water; and on the contrary, the Water, with the same Slowness, to descend thro’ the Wine, without ever mixing with each other, till at length the Bottle will be full of Wine, and all the Water will sink to the Bottom of the Vessel that’s underneath.

I added the emphasis there to be sure we all know what he’s talking about. The water and the wine will exchange places in the two vessels, without mixing. I’m sorry, what?

Sir Francis Bacon can even do one better. He writes in Sylva Sylvarum of 1627:
Take a Glasse with a Belly and a long Nebb; fill the Belly (in part) with Water: Take also another Glasse, whereinto put Claret Wine and Water mingled; Reverse the first Glasse, with the Belly upwards, Stopping the Nebb with your fingar; Then dipp the Mouth of it within the Second Glasse, and remove your Fingar: Continue it in that posture for a time; And it will unmingle the Wine from the Water: The Wine ascending and setling in the topp of the upper Glasse; And the Water descending and setling in the bottome of the lower Glasse. The passage is apparent to the Eye; For you shall see the Wine, as it were, in a small veine, rising through the Water.

You can connect two vessels through a narrow spout, one containing water, the other a mixture of water and wine. Not only will the two liquids not mix; they will exchange places and the mixed water and wine will “unmingle”!

Apparently, until the 1970s, these passages were interpreted as mistakes. The two greats, who championed empirical study against belief in authority, slipped up: they never performed the experiment themselves, they heard about it, thought it through and decided it made sense. Then in 1971, someone tried it.

Errrr, whoa!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: