Not long ago, we learned for the first time that dandelion seeds fly thanks to a stable separated vortex ring that sits behind their bristly pappus. Building on that work, researchers have now published a mathematical analysis of flow around a simplified dandelion pappus. Despite their simplifications, the model captures the flow observed in the previous experiments (bottom image: experiments on left; model on right). 

The model also allowed researchers to test various features – like the number of filaments in the pappus – and see how they affected the flow. Interestingly, they found that dandelion flight was most stable with about 100 filaments, which is right around the number of a typical pappus! (Image credits: dandelion - Pixabay, figure - P. Ledda et al.; research credit: P. Ledda et al.; via APS Physics; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh and Marc A.)