When it comes to geophysics, there are all kinds of phenomena that depend on rotation. In this short video, researchers demonstrate one such phenomena — the centrifugal instability — in a tank on a turn table. The experiment begins once the fluid in the tank is all rotating together, like a solid body would. Then, they reduce the rotation rate of the turn table. Almost immediately, we see rolls encircle the tank.
The rolls form due to the difference in momentum between fluid in the interior and near the wall. Friction with the wall slows the fluid there down much faster than that in the middle of the tank. As the faster-moving fluid gets centrifuged outward, it forms rolls. As the video demonstrates, these rolls can be relatively uniform and laminar, or, with enough change in rotation rate, they can become turbulent. (Image and video credit: UCLA Spinlab)
“What happens when two scientists, a composer, a cellist, and a planetarium animator make art?” The answer is “Dendritic,” a musical composition built directly on the tree-like branching patterns found when a less viscous fluid is injected into a more viscous one sandwiched between two plates.
Normally this viscous fingering instability results in dense, branching fingers, but when there’s directional dependence in the fluid, the pattern transitions instead to one that’s dendritic. In this case, that directionality comes from liquid crystals, whose are rod-like shape makes it easier for liquid to flow in the direction aligned with the rods.
Every day human activity pumps aerosol particles into the atmosphere, potentially altering our weather patterns. But tracking the effects of those emissions is difficult with so many variables changing at once. It’s easier to see how such particles affect weather patterns somewhere like the Sandwich Islands, where we can observe the effects of a single, known source like a volcano.
That’s what we see in this false-color satellite image. Mount Michael has a permanent lava lake in its central crater, and so often releases sulfur dioxide and other gases. As those gases rise and mix with the passing atmosphere, they can create bright, persistent cloud trails like the one seen here. The brightening comes from the additional small cloud droplets that form around the extra particles emitted from the volcano.
As a bonus, this image includes some extra fluid dynamical goodness. Check out the wave clouds and von Karman vortices in the wake of the neighboring islands! (Image credit: J. Stevens; via NASA Earth Observatory)
Conventional fluid dynamical wisdom posits that any flows at the microscale should be laminar. Tiny swimmers like microorganisms live in a world dominated by viscosity, therefore, there can be no turbulence. But experiments with bacterial colonies have shown that’s not entirely true. With enough micro-swimmers moving around, even these viscous, small-scale flows become turbulent.
That’s what is shown in Image 2, where tracer particles show the complex motion of fluid around a bacterial swarm. By tracking both the bacteria motion and the fluid motion, researchers were able to describe the flow using statistical methods similar to those used for conventional turbulence. The characteristics of this bacterial turbulence are not identical to larger-scale turbulence, but they are certainly more turbulent than laminar. (Image credits: bacterium – A. Weiner, bacterial turbulence – J. Dunkel et al.; research credit: J. Dunkel et al.; submitted by Jeff M.)