Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics

Celebrating the physics of all that flows. Ask a question, submit a post idea or send an email. You can also follow FYFD on Twitter and Google+. FYFD is written by Nicole Sharp, PhD.

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Many systems can exhibit unstable behaviors when perturbed. The classic example is a ball sitting on top of a hill; if you move the ball at all, it will fall down the hill due to gravity. There is no way to perturb the ball in such a way that it will return to the top of the hill; this makes the top of the hill an unstable point. In many dynamical systems, a very small perturbation may not be as obviously unstable as the ball atop the hill, especially at first. Often a perturbation will have a very small effect initially, but it can grow exponentially with time. That is the case in this video. Here a tank of fluid is being vibrated vertically with a constant amplitude. At first, the sloshing effect on the fluid interface is very small. But the vibration frequency sits in the unstable region of the parameter space, and the perturbation, which began as a small sloshing, grows very quickly. In a real system (as opposed to a mathematical one), this kind of unstable or unbounded growth very quickly leads to destruction. (Video credit: S. Srinivas)

Destin from Smarter Every Day has just made a video on one of my favorite fluids brain teasers: what happens to a helium balloon when you accelerate in a car? Take a moment to think about the answer before watching or reading further…

Okay, so what happens? Contrary to what you may expect, hitting the accelerator with a balloon in the car will make it shift forward. This is a matter of buoyancy. As Destin demonstrates with the water bottle, when two fluids are accelerated forward, the denser one will shift backwards, which pushes the lighter one forward. Because the helium is lighter than the air filling the car, accelerating pushes the air backward (just as it does the pendulum and the car’s inhabitants) and that shifting of the air pushes the helium in the balloon forward. (Video credit: Smarter Every Day)

Veritasium’s new video has an awesome demonstration featuring acoustics, standing waves, and combustion. It’s a two-dimensional take on the classic Rubens’ tube concept in which flammable gas is introduced into a chamber with a series of holes drilled across the top. Igniting the gas produces an array of flames, which is not especially interesting in itself, until a sound is added. When a note is played in the tube, the gas inside vibrates and, with the right geometry and frequency, can resonate, forming standing waves. The motion of the gas and the shape of the acoustic waves is visible in the flames. Extended into two-dimensions, this creates some very cool effects. (Video credit: Veritasium; via Ryan A.; submitted by jshoer)

A water droplet can rebound completely without spreading from a superhydrophobic surface. The photo above is a long exposure image showing the trajectory of such a droplet as it bounces. In the initial bounces, the droplet leaves the surface fully, following a parabolic path with each rebound. The droplet’s kinetic energy is sapped with each rebound by surface deformation and vibration, making each bounce smaller than the last. Viscosity damps the drop’s vibrations, and the droplet eventually comes to rest after twenty or so rebounds. (Image credit: D. Richard and D. Quere)

Flow patterns can change dramatically as fluid speed and Reynolds number increase. These visualizations show flow moving from left to right around a circular plunger. The lower Reynolds number flow is on the left, with a large, well-formed, singular vortex spinning off the plunger’s shoulder. The image on the right is from a higher Reynolds number and higher freestream speed. Now the instantaneous flow field is more complicated, with a string of small vortices extending from the plunger and a larger and messier area of recirculation behind the plunger. In general, increasing the Reynolds number of a flow makes it more turbulent, generating a larger range of length scales in the flow and increasing its complexity. (Image credit: S. O’Halloran)

Much as I try to keep from getting repetitious, this was just too neat to pass up. This new music video for The Glitch Mob’s “Becoming Harmonious” is built around the standing Faraday waves that form on a water-filled subwoofer. The vibration patterns, along with judicious use of strobe lighting, produce some fantastic and kaleidoscopic effects. (Video credit: The Glitch Mob/Susi Sie; submitted by @krekr)

There’s an apocryphal story claiming that, aerodynamically speaking, honeybees should not be able to fly. Obviously, they can, but it’s true that a small, flapping creature and a large, fixed-wing aircraft will not generate lift exactly the same way. NYU professor Leif Ristroph has a lot of projects exploring flapping flight on smaller scales, as seen in this video. His oscillatory fliers and rotating flapping flight simulator have both been featured previously. Part of the beauty of these projects is their size; in a field that’s historically required giant wind tunnels and room-length wave tanks, Ristroph’s work provides insight into long-standing problems using apparatuses that fit on a countertop. (Video credit: Cool Hunting/L. Ristroph et al.)

NPR’s Skunk Bear Tumblr has a great new video on the schlieren visualization technique. The schlieren optical set-up is relatively simple but very powerful, as shown in the video. The technique is sensitive to variations in the refractive index of air; this bends light passing through the test area so that changes in fluid density appear as light and dark regions in the final image. Since air’s density changes with temperature and with compressibility, the technique gets used extensively to visualize buoyancy-driven flows and supersonic flows. Since sound waves are compression waves which change the air’s density as they travel, schlieren can capture them, too. (Video credit: A. Cole/NPR’s Skunk Bear)

Newton’s third law says that forces come in equal and opposite pairs. This means that when air exerts lift on an airplane, the airplane also exerts a downward force on the air. This is clear in the image above, which shows a an A380 prototype launched through a wall of smoke. When the model passes, air is pushed downward. The finite size of the wings also generates dramatic wingtip vortices. The high pressure air on the underside of the wings tries to slip around the wingtip to the upper surface, where the local pressure is low. This generates the spiraling vortices, which can be a significant hazard to other nearby aircraft. They are also detrimental to the airplane’s lift because they reduce the downwash of air. Most commercial aircraft today mitigate these effects using winglets which weaken the vortices’ effects. (Image credit: Nat. Geo./BBC2)

Newton’s third law says that forces come in equal and opposite pairs. This means that when air exerts lift on an airplane, the airplane also exerts a downward force on the air. This is clear in the image above, which shows a an A380 prototype launched through a wall of smoke. When the model passes, air is pushed downward. The finite size of the wings also generates dramatic wingtip vortices. The high pressure air on the underside of the wings tries to slip around the wingtip to the upper surface, where the local pressure is low. This generates the spiraling vortices, which can be a significant hazard to other nearby aircraft. They are also detrimental to the airplane’s lift because they reduce the downwash of air. Most commercial aircraft today mitigate these effects using winglets which weaken the vortices’ effects. (Image credit: Nat. Geo./BBC2)

The recently released music video for Jack White’s “High Ball Stepper” is a fantastic marriage of science and art. The audio is paired with visuals based around vibration effects using both granular materials and fluids. There are many examples of Faraday waves, the rippling patterns formed when a fluid interface becomes unstable under vibration. There are also cymatic patterns and even finger-like protrusions formed by when shear-thickening non-Newtonian fluids get agitated. (Video credit: J. White, B. Swank and J. Cathcart; submitted by Mike and Marius)