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Amtrek Sci-Tech: Ask the expert
The Coriolis Force and discount coach fares

QUESTION:
Recently, I looked into an Amtrek Circle Trip. I priced it for travel in both directions: New York-Chicago-New Orleans-New York, as well as New York-New Orleans-Chicago-New York. Oddly enough, it's about $100 cheaper to travel this circle counterclockwise than it is to go clockwise. I tried several different combinations of days, and got similar results. Why do these fares favor a counterclockwise direction of travel?

ANSWER:
The phenomenon you noticed is due to the Coriolis Force, a result of our planet's rotation. The Coriolis Force is what causes hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere to rotate counterclockwise. This force affects not only low-pressure weather systems, but also the fuel economy and popularity of trains. Hence, the counterclockwise direction of travel is priced more economically, at least here in the North. The opposite is true south of the Equator. Trains in the Southern Hemisphere are cheaper to ride on clockwise Circle Trips. The discovery of the relationship between the Coriolis Force and Rail Fares - known as the "King Effect" - is credited to Professor Peter King of the Nutley Polytechnic Institute.

We wish to thank Dr. Peter Wezeman for contributing to this month's "Ask the Expert" column. Dr. Wezeman is Director of Amtrek's Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Discount Coach Fares.
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The Coriolis Force causes hurricanes to rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere
The Coriolis Force causes hurricanes to rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. It has the same effect upon trains, NASCAR racers and even roller skating rinks.

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