How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 117

Why can't you pull the water up above a certain point without a pump?
When you draw water up through a pipe (or straw) by removing the air inside that pipe, you are allowing the atmospheric pressure around the water to push the water up the pipe. The water experiences a pressure imbalance between the pressure around it (atmospheric pressure) and the pressure in the pipe (less than atmospheric pressure), so it accelerates into the pipe. But as the water column inside the pipe grows taller, a new problem appears: gravity. The water's weight pushes downward and begins to oppose the pressure imbalance. At a certain height, the two effects balance and the water stops accelerating upward. When the water's height reaches 10 m, atmospheric pressure can't overcome this weight problem, even if all the air has been removed from the pipe.

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