Every year, the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics publishes the Gallery of Fluid Motion, a repository of the most striking, awe-inspiring, and illuminating experiments presented at the annual meeting. This year’s submissions are just as spectacular as ever, showcasing everything from a water droplet being blown apart by a laser pulse to new ways of controlling the rainbow patterns on soap films.
|A rotor blade, like that of a helicopter, creates vortices
that are ordinarily invisible.
Image Credit: Giuni, et. al. CC BY-NC 4.0
Many of these short films and infographics are as much art as science, highlighting the beauty and unfathomable complexity of the world around us, often just beyond our perception—too fast, or small, or transparent to be seen without microscopes and tracer particles. While we could write a post exploring each of these award-winners individually, most of them are explained succinctly within the image or video, providing scientists and enthusiasts alike with a deeper understanding of what’s happening and why it happens.
Such visually-appealing and eminently shareable science is doubly valuable; the more people know about an idea like the fluidic oscillator shown below, the more useful applications it’s likely to find—for example, it could help someone develop a sprinkler system that relies on fluidics
to function without moving parts, making it less likely to break.
The most wonderful thing about the gallery is that, even if you don’t quite understand what a Lyapunov exponent is, you’re still learning physics when you watch these videos, and in one of the most engaging ways possible. What’s more, the physics of fluids often parallels other, less intuitively-friendly systems, like electric charge
or wavelike particles
, providing conceptual touchstones to help us grasp things that might otherwise be beyond our reach. By coming to a better understanding of how a fluid behaves, you’re coming to a better understanding of the universe overall, learning something about the whole by observing a small part of it. Enjoy the gallery
, and don’t forget to share it with your friends!