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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A core-collapse, or Type II, supernova occurs in massive stars when they can no longer sustain fusion. For most of their lives, stars produce energy by fusing hydrogen into helium. Eventually, the hydrogen runs out and the core contracts until it reaches temperatures hot enough to cause the helium to fuse into carbon. This process repeats through to heavier elements, producing a pre-collapse star with onion-like layers of elements with the heaviest elements near the center. When the core consists mostly of nickel and iron, fusion will come to an end, and the core’s next collapse will trigger the supernova. When astronomers observed Supernova 1987A, the closest supernova in more than 300 years, models predicted that the onion-like layers of the supernova would persist after the explosion. But observations showed core materials reaching the surface much faster than predicted, suggesting that turbulent mixing might be carrying heavier elements outward. The images above show several time steps of a 2D simulation of this type of supernova. In the wake of the expanding shock wave, the core materials form fingers that race outward, mixing the fusion remnants. Hydrodynamically speaking, this is an example of the Richtmyer-Meshkov instability, in which a shock wave generates mixing between fluid layers of differing densities. (Image credit: K. Kifonidis et al.; see also B. Remington)

These satellite images show the effects of a sudden influx of warm freshwater on sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. On the left are natural color satellite images of Canada’s Mackenzie River delta where it enters the Beaufort Sea. On the right are temperature maps of the ice and water surface temperatures for the same regions. In June 2012, the coastal sea ice that had been blocking the river's delta broke, releasing a massive discharge of river water. The natural color images show brown and tan sediment reaching far out from the river delta, but the temperature maps on the right are even more dramatic. Warmer river water has spread many hundreds of kilometers from the delta, melting sea ice and raising the open water surface temperatures by an average of 6.5 degrees Celsius. The effects of river discharge on sea ice melt are increasing as inland Arctic areas warm more in the summers and the sea ice becomes thinner and more vulnerable each year. (Image credits: NASA Earth Observatory)

This high-speed footage shows how a dog drinks. The dog’s tongue curls backwards, creating a large area of surface contact with the water. When the dog pulls its tongue back up, water adheres to it and is drawn upward in a column. The dog then closes its mouth around the water before it falls. Fundamentally, this is the same mechanism as the one cats use. Part of the reason that dogs are messier drinkers, though, is that the backwards curl of their tongue picks up extra water. Because the dog has no cheeks, there’s no way to move this water from the underside to the top of the tongue and so the water just falls back out. (Video credit: Oxford Scientific Films; submitted by Carolyn W.)

Ice build-up is a major hazard on airplane wings and control surfaces, but ice can accrete on internal engine components, too. When this happens, the turbofan jet engine can lose power. Such incidents have been observed in high-altitude flight even when pilots observed little to no inclement weather. Researchers think this ice accretion may occur when the plane flies through a cloud of tiny ice crystals. These ice crystals get ingested into the engine, where they hit the warmer internal surfaces and melt. Over the course of the flight, the engine components cool off due to this influx of ice and water. Eventually, ice begins to form and grow inside the engine, ultimately resulting in power loss. Researchers have recreated such ice cloud conditions in a facility at NASA Glenn Research Center and tested a full-scale jet engine for ice accretion. They aim to gather the data necessary to improve commercial engine capabilities under ice ingestion. (Video credit: NASA Glenn Research Center)

This aerial photo shows the leading edge of a haboob—an intense dust storm—sweeping across Texas last week. Although dust can be stirred up under many circumstances, haboobs are a specific meteorological phenomenon with winds as high as 100 kph and towering clouds of dust kilometers high. This particular storm swept through five US states last week along an incoming cold front. The winds accompanying the cold front swept up silt, dirt, and dust from the drought-ridden Southwest and carried it along to envelope towns and cities along the way. Although the term is Arabic in origin, haboobs occur throughout the world, typically at the leading edge of a cold front or thunderstorm.  (Photo credit: R. Scott)

Science Friday takes an inside look at self-propelled Leidenfrost droplets like those we’ve featured previously. The Leidenfrost effect takes place when a liquid comes in contact with a surface much, much hotter than its boiling point. Part of the liquid is vaporized, creating a thin gas layer that both insulates the remaining liquid and causes it to move with very little friction. Over a flat surface, this underlying vapor will spread in any direction. But by covering the surface with ratchets, it’s possible to direct the vapor in a particular direction, which propels the droplet in the opposite direction. Check out the video and our previous posts for more! (Video credit: Science Friday; via io9 and submitted by Urs)

Every year Chicago dyes its river green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. This timelapse video shows this year’s dyeing, including several passes from a boat distributing the green dye. The color is remarkably slow to diffuse. The boat’s passage does little to affect the motion of the dye already in the river. This is because the boat mainly disturbs the surface and most of the color comes from dye spread throughout the water. It’s like if you tried to stir milk into your coffee just by tapping the surface with your spoon. Instead, the slower, large-scale turbulent motion of the river distributes the dye. For more St. Patrick’s Day physics, be sure to check out Guinness physics and why tapping a beer makes it foam. (Video credit: P. Tsai; submitted by Bobby E.)

The ethereal shapes of inks and paints falling through water make fascinating subjects. Here the ink appears to rise because the photographs are upside-down. The fluid forms mushroom-like plumes and little vortex rings. The strands that split apart into tiny lace-like fingers are an example of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which occurs when a denser fluid sinks into a less dense one. Similar fingering can occur on much grander scales, as well, like in the Crab Nebula. These images come from photographer Luka Klikovac's "Demersal" series. (Photo credit: L. Klikovac)

Vortex rings are wonderful at maintaining coherent vorticity while moving over significant distances. If you stand several meters from a foam cup and try blowing to knock it over, it’s not likely to budge. But move the air impulsively with a vortex cannon, and you can knock it over from the opposite side of the room. The same principle works underwater with added visual effect. Here an impulsive burst of air exhaled by the diver forms a bubble ring with vorticity strong enough to knock over a stack of rocks. It may look like a superpower, but this is science! Dolphins and whales are also known to play with this trick. For the non-scuba-divers among you, it’s also possible to learn to do it in a swimming pool. (Video credit: DjDeutchTv; h/t to coolsciencegifs)

The fire tornado is one of nature’s most impressive and terrifying examples of fluid dynamics. Although they are relatively common phenomena, it’s rare to get such a clear glimpse of them since they usually occur in the midst of giant wildfires. The fire tornado is driven by a combination of updraft from the fire and rotation from the surrounding flow. Take a look at how they form:

There are artificial fire tornadoes as well, including homemade ones. That said, please do not try this at home without full safety measures and extreme caution. In general, watching YouTube videos is a much safer way to enjoy this phenomenon. (Video credit: C. Tangey; h/t to Flow Visualization)