Attack of the Shower Curtain

Attack of the Shower Curtain

We’ve all been there. You’re in the shower putting the final touches on your acceptance speech for your first Academy Award, and then you feel it. A slow, light caress on your leg. After jumping two miles and preparing for a Psycho situation, you realize it was just your shower curtain giving you your daily angina. After appropriately telling off the curtain and reapplying the magnets, you wonder to yourself, “Why the heck does this even happen?”

Well, the story of this phenomenon is not quite as easy as you would think. Previous theories hypothesized that rising hot air would leave the shower while cooler air from the bathroom would come into the tub and blow the curtain inward. However, the pesky shower curtain effect occurred with cold water as well. Another theory guessed that the air in the shower would start to flow in line with the water leaving the shower head. The difference in pressure between the fast moving air in the shower and still air on the other side of the shower curtain would cause the curtain to touch your leg ever so gently. But, nonetheless, in practice, the math never quite worked out. 

In 2001, David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts decided to employ software ordinarily used for diesel and aircraft engines to tackle this monumentally important question facing society. Schmidt broke up the shower up into 50,000 tiny cells and after 2 straight weeks of equation crunching, the computer simulated 30 seconds of shower time. (Talk about a long walk for a short spray of water!)

 Source: David Schmidt

Source: David Schmidt

He found that the spray from the shower head creates a weak vortex of low pressure air parallel to the curtain, which pulls the curtain inward. And humanity can breathe a sigh of relief.

If you are one of the lucky ones who have never experienced this in the shower and are getting a serious case of FOMO, don’t fret. Simply increasing the water pressure coming out of your shower or getting a lighter shower curtain liner will create the right conditions to feel the wonderful slimy cuddle. Another day, another mystery solved.

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