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Siphoning gas

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The world is full of strange phenomenon, and I am not just talking about the mysterious stuff only a few get to observe. Sometimes every day stuff can be intriguing just the same. Gravity is one example. I know the physics explanation of it, but ever wondered why an object exerts a force on other objects, and the bigger it is the larger the force? I know what keeps airplanes in the air (the air flow pressure difference over and under the wings creates an upward lift), but I still find it hard to believe that these giant machines actually lift off the ground and stay airborne.

Today I was faced with yet another of these physical oddities, the siphon action. A couple of days ago I noticed a strong gas smell from the garage. Turns out that my bike, which is stored in the garage during winter months, has sprung a gas leak. I'm not sure where the leak is located (perhaps a loose hose) but I had to empty the gas tank somehow.

So I bought a simple siphon pump from NAPA and siphoned out the gas, all along thinking to myself that the whole siphoning process is pretty amazing. At first glance one wouldn't imagine that the gas can actually travel upwards in a hose and come back pouring down into the gas can. I wonder if the first person who discovered this phenomenon was besides himself in disbelief. The whole thing seems almost magical.

I decided to Google it to see what science has to say about it, and here is what I found. Wikipedia seemed to provide a reasonable answer. As the liquid rushes out of the long tube positioned lower than the container, the gravity pull on the column of liquid creates a force, pulling up the rest of the liquid like a chain. What keeps the whole process moving is the cohesion of the liquid molecules which makes them stick together like a weak glue. At least that was my interpretation of the explanation. Whatever the case, I am thankful for the siphon action. Without it, emptying the gas tank would have become a messy task.

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