The Science Behind the Sneeze
They found that smaller droplets travel really far because the cloud keeps them afloat. It’s surprising how far they can go, they said, which makes sneezes particularly dangerous in hospitals and other public spaces.
“When you cough or sneeze, you see the droplets, or feel them if someone sneezes on you,” says John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT, and co-author of a new paper on the subject. “But you don’t see the cloud, the invisible gas phase. The influence of this gas cloud is to extend the range of the individual droplets, particularly the small ones.”
Smaller drops, longer distances
Indeed, the study finds, the smaller droplets that emerge in a cough or sneeze may travel five to 200 times further than they would if those droplets simply moved as groups of unconnected particles — which is what previous estimates had assumed. The tendency of these droplets to stay airborne, resuspended by gas clouds, means that ventilation systems may be more prone to transmitting potentially infectious particles than had been suspected.
Music by Audio Network
Additional Video and Stills by
Lydia Bourouiba, John Bush, Shutterstock, Prelinger Archives, MIT
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