Sneezing Releases A Cloud Of Buoyant Gas (And Snot)

Sneezing Releases A Cloud Of Buoyant Gas (And Snot)

A 2014 study showed that the cloud of gas released after a sneeze kept mucus droplets airborne for greater distances than were previously estimated. The cloud could even carry small droplets upwards toward a room's ventilation system, leading to the possibility of infection for people elsewhere in the building. Before this research, scientists had also assumed that large mucus droplets traveled farther than smaller ones, given their added momentum. The cloud, however, ensures that this is not the case.

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Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Dr. Lydia Bourouiba used fluid mechanics to analyze the physical process of sneezing. (1:25)

  • 2

    When you sneeze, a "turbulent multiphase cloud" buoys the mucus droplets that you release. (2:14)

  • 3

    The multiphase cloud released after a sneeze can carry germs up through a room and into the ventilation system. (3:37)

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