Tempest in a teapot: International team of scientists describes swirling natural phenomena

Vortice in a teacup, from the worldisround.com - click

Via press release: (Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Scientists can use cylinders as small as teapots to study the mechanisms involved in powerful hurricanes and other swirling natural phenomena.

The earth’s atmosphere and its molten outer core have one thing in common: Both contain powerful, swirling vortices. While in the atmosphere these vortices include cyclones and hurricanes, in the outer core they are essential for the formation of the earth’s magnetic field. These phenomena in earth’s interior and its atmosphere are both governed by the same natural mechanisms, according to experimental physicists at UC Santa Barbara working with a computation team in the Netherlands.

Using laboratory cylinders from 4 to 40 inches high, the team studied these underlying physical processes. The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

“To study the atmosphere would be too complicated for our purposes,” said Guenter Ahlers, senior author and professor of physics at UCSB. “Physicists like to take one ingredient of a complicated situation and study it in a quantitative way under ideal conditions.” The research team, including first author Stephan Weiss, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSB, filled the laboratory cylinders with water, and heated the water from below and cooled it from above.

Due to that temperature difference, the warm fluid at the bottom plate rose, while the cold fluid at the top sank –– a phenomenon known as convection. In addition, the whole cylinder was rotated around its own axis; this had a strong influence on how the water flowed inside the cylinder. Rotation, such as the earth’s rotation, is a key factor in the development of vortices. The temperature difference between the top and the bottom of the cylinder is another causal factor since it drives the flow in the first place. Finally, the relation of the diameter of the cylinder to the height is also significant.

Ahlers and his team discovered a new unexpected phenomenon that was not known before for turbulent flows like this. When spinning the container slowly enough, no vortices occurred at first. But, at a certain critical rotation speed, the flow structure changed. Vortices then occurred inside the flow and the warm fluid was transported faster from the bottom to the top than at lower rotation rates. “It is remarkable that this point exists,” Ahlers said. “You must rotate at a certain speed to get to this critical point.”

The rotation rate at which the first vortices appeared depended on the relation between the diameter and the height of the cylinder. For wide cylinders that are not very high, this transition appeared at relatively low rotation rates, while for narrow but high cylinders, the cylinder had to rotate relatively fast in order to produce vortices. Further, it was found that vortices do not exist very close to the sidewall of the cylinder. Instead they always stayed a certain distance away from it. That characteristic distance is called the “healing length.”

“You can’t go from nothing to something quickly,” said Ahlers. “The change must occur over a characteristic length. We found that when you slow down to a smaller rotation rate, the healing length increases.”

The authors showed that their experimental findings are in keeping with a theoretical model similar to the one first developed by Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg and Lev Landau in the theory of superconductivity. That same model is also applicable to other areas of physics such as pattern formation and critical phenomena. The model explains that the very existence of the transition from the state without vortices to the one with them is due to the presence of the sidewalls of the container. For a sample so wide (relative to its height) that the walls become unimportant, the vortices would start to form even for very slow rotation. The model makes it possible to describe the experimental discoveries, reported in the article, in precise mathematical language.

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The other UCSB author is postdoctoral fellow Jin-Qiang Zhong. Additional authors are Richard J. A. M. Stevens and Detlef Lohse from the University of Twente and Herman J. H. Clercx from Eindhoven University of Science and Technology, both in the Netherlands.

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87 thoughts on “Tempest in a teapot: International team of scientists describes swirling natural phenomena

  1. Truth is what works. Now make some predictions and we will check how good your model is. However, from my undergrad days, I seem to remember that once you get out of the region of laminar flow, things be come, shall we say, a bit difficult.

  2. Quote from start of article

    “The earth’s atmosphere and its molten outer core have one thing in common:”

    Maybe Inner Core???

    Peter

  3. Wow, what deep,intriguing experiments. Takes real “scientists” to come up with yet another hair brain model. Where do all these people come from? I’m sorry, but I seem to have lost faith in the scientific community as a whole.

  4. Reminds me of a Jr. High science experiment I did .-On the Coriolis Effect?!!
    Gee and I could’ve applied for a grant. I won’t go into the kid at the next
    Table who tried to re-animate a frozen Catfish. Found in ice at a local lake.
    Should’ve written a paper on attracting cats…

  5. ShrNfr says:
    November 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

    well said – but I suppose there should be enough expertise in CFD by now anyway? (computational fluid dynamics).

  6. I don’t know how much this is costing them, but the Pet Tornado is available from Physlink.com for $4.95. “Shake the Pet Tornado clockwise and watch the mini tornado funnel form before your eyes” reads the accompanying copy. “Can you figure out why is it forming? What is the purpose of the fluid and what is the purpose of small particles in the tube?” I don’t know — but I’m sure a team of international scientists can work it out. “Amaze your friends with this amazing desk toy!”

    Sounds like fun.

  7. Tempest in a teacup? Take the cylinder walls away and you will have tea in your lap.
    Change the speed of spin and perhaps you could eliminate the hurricanes. Help! Research money badly needed.

  8. At the risk of sounding too cynical, here’s how this works:

    1. Determine that vortices are inadequately understood (a good thing)
    2. Launch a research program to understand vortices (a good thing)
    3. Finance program by pointing out that vortices are involved in hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather phenomena that are expected to get worse with AGW (a not-so-good thing)
    4. Repeat grade-school level experiments which THIS poster performed in grade 6 (blue and red food coloring to show the swirls), claim they’re unexpected and nobody ever noticed before
    5. Create a simplified model, sell model to ILM for use in CG used in movies and TV ads, recoup all research program costs
    6. Integrate vortex models into Model E, watch in awe as the planet is obliterated by vortices within another few ppm of CO2
    7. Exclaim that this is all worse than we thought, and if CO2 emissions don’t stop IMMEDIATELY the entire planet down to the 2 million degree molten core will be torn asunder by vortices. Create HighDef video demonstrating the destruction
    8. Sell HighDef video as opening sequence in new climate porn blockbuster Hollywood movie. Earn enough for another home in the tropics. Beachside.
    9. Have Vortex Theory and simplified model forcefully inserted into school textbooks, along with a few disclaimers about how most students will never reach adulthood because the Vortices will destroy the planet before then.
    10. Determine that all Vortices, globally, are man-made, and before humans walked the Earth there was never a Vortex, ever. Nobody EVER found dinosaur trailer parks torn apart by a tornado, right?
    11. When asked by a 7 year old, “aren’t those little winglets on the tips of airplanes because of Vortices?”, rant uncontrollably for hours about how NOBODY ever studied Vortices before you, and that’s all a plot by the Vortex Deniers, funded by Big Calm.
    12. Go on anti-depressants after your private emails between you and the NASA guys who first studied Vortexes in the 50s are publicly released. IN spite of the fact that only 4 people downloaded them.
    13. End up on late night TV discussing how your enemies in highly funded fossil fuel denier cabals managed to completely destroy you.
    14. Found dead in fleabag hotel room in some town nobody ever heard of, a victim of the grand Vortex conspiracy.

  9. CodeTech says:
    November 30, 2010 at 10:29 am

    11. When asked by a 7 year old, “aren’t those little winglets on the tips of airplanes because of Vortices?”, rant uncontrollably for hours about how NOBODY ever studied Vortices before you, and that’s all a plot by the Vortex Deniers, funded by Big Calm.

    Heh heh. “Big Calm.”

  10. Taught in Introductory Fluid Mechanics …but funding hooks necessary:

    “Ahlers and his team discovered a new unexpected phenomenon that was not known before for turbulent flows like this. When spinning the container slowly enough, no vortices occurred at first. But, at a certain critical rotation speed, the flow structure changed. Vortices then occurred inside the flow and the warm fluid was transported faster from the bottom to the top than at lower rotation rates. “It is remarkable that this point exists,” Ahlers said. “You must rotate at a certain speed to get to this critical point.””

  11. Here’s a trick I think those doctors in the making can perform to actually test their “new found” phenomenon.

    Rotate yourselves around your own central vertical axis, slowly slowly, at first, then faster, faster and faster. And away you go. However, if you don’t attain lift off and go ballistic in five minutes, only stop at your own risk.

    Much cheaper ‘an any kind of drugs and with about the same side effects–even the surreal surround sound laughter from the onlookers.

  12. jack morrow said: November 30, 2010 at 9:39 am

    “I’m sorry, but I seem to have lost faith in the scientific community as a whole.”

    Jack, those of us who are dismayed at the Hockey Team’s perversion of science must resist the temptation to become hardened cynics. The seeds of Climatography’s* own destruction are already sown, and it’s only a matter of time before their half-baked predictions go the way of previous scientific fraud; collapses in ignominy. The pesky planet – and the pesky laws of physics it operates under – cares not that the AGW lobby army is hoping and praying and rooting for for a continuation of the 1975-1998 warm spell.

    Our opponents like to claim that we sceptics are somehow anti-science. Nah. It’s BENT scientists we loathe, not the real ones.

    *They don’t deserve the ‘ology'; they barely deserve an ‘ography’.

  13. There may be some parallels with turbulent mountain streams that seem to be moving rapidly and the lower wider rivers as they approach the sea which are smoother and seem to be slower. Except higher is slower and lower is faster. Along the way there is friction with the bottom and sides, vortices, and other complicating factors.

    Earth isn’t a cylinder – did anyone mention this – so maybe they could move to the space station and work with spheres.

  14. Hey ‘CodeTech’,

    That’s not cynical at all: it’s pragmatic foresight based on 20/20 hindsight. The sad part is, that as funny as it is, it’s probably not far off the mark. Good job! :-)

  15. Reminds me of the end of one fluid dynamics lecture a long while ago where we fetched up singing “irrotational, incompressible, two dimensional fluid flow” to our prof as we were getting bored with the lecture – it goes well to the Cwm Rhondda (“bread of heaven…”) tune. Would’ve thought they’d got it nailed down by now …

  16. In related news, Dr. Ralph Wiggums, Spingfield U., concluded after a 2 year, $5 million dollar research study that indeed his “cat’s breath smells like cat food”.

  17. CodeTech says:
    November 30, 2010 at 10:29 am
    At the risk of sounding too cynical, here’s how this works:……….

    Very good.
    I enjoyed that.

  18. I seem to recall that James Bond prefered his martinis a certain way – shaken, not stirred. The next movie will probably have him order his martini swirled, not shaken or stirred.

  19. I’m not for sure what is new here, but I suspect it’s the transition point that relates to formalisms in superconductivity. Changes in stability and their explanations are an important part of hydrodynamics and thermodynamics. I note that very little if anything gets into Phys Rev Letters that is not of high interest and novelty, albeit in fields of sometime limited interest.
    The point is that immediate dismissal of someone’s work without understanding what has been done or its significance does not serve the skeptic community well. Some of the replies here have the character of knee-slapping yokels motivated by poking at anything that comes along. Besides there is nothing in the work that immediately relates to AGW pro or con, simply a simple observation, likely correct, that may have been missed, despite the simplicity of the system. Most good discoveries turn out to be simple and obvious when explained.

  20. So far, the great majority of the commenters in this thread are dismissing this article because haven’t a clue as to the actual science involved, possibly either because the press release is written for general readership or because they have insufficient background in science to see beyond the prose therein. I’ve met Guenter Ahlers and I can assure you that he has a first class intellect. I saw him give a paper at an SAACS conference in Redlands, CA. His paper was head and shoulders above anything else presented. I once interviewed for a job in Riverside. When I was told that the other candidate was Dr. Ahlers, I advised the interviewer to hire him if they possibly could.

    Guenter Ahlers received his BA degree in chemistry from UC Riverside in 1958 and a PhD in physical chemistry from UC Berkely in 1963. In 1963 he became a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ. There he worked on critical phenomena near the lambda point in liquid helium and near magnetic phase transition, and on superfluid hydrodynamics. In 1970 he began research on Rayleigh-Bénard convection in liquid helium that led to the experimental observation of chaos in a fluid-mechanical system. In 1979 Ahlers moved to UC Santa Barbara, where he studied pattern formation in convection and Taylor-vortex flow, and turbulent Rayleigh-Bénard convection. He and his co-workers published about 270 papers in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Physics of Fluids, Physical Review A, B, and E, Physical Review Letters, and elsewhere. Ahlers became a Fellow of the APS in 1971 and of the AAAS in 1990. He received the IUPAP Fritz London Memorial Award in low-temperature physics in 1978, the Alexander von Humboldt Senior US Scientist Award in 1989, and the APS fluid-dynamics prize in 2007. In 1998 he was a Guggenheim Fellow. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1982 and became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.

    See the paper at: http://physics.aps.org/articles/v2/74

  21. I really don’t understand the snark and jeers in the comments section about this example of basic investigative physics. Please explain and expound on why it is not valid and deserves ridicule.

  22. Google only finds the term ‘healing length’ in association with Bose condensate and liquid helium (ie superfluids).

    Is it also room temperature concept?

  23. Wow, I have never seen such a collection of lame half cocked and condescending comments on WUWT, as I am reading now. Obviously, no one bothered to find out what the researchers are reporting. sheeesh!

  24. The same lead researcher ten years ago…

    {Head stuck in a Gym toilet getting a “Swirly” by field hockey team member}

    “I wonder why the water spins in a circle like that”.

  25. David Walton says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm
    I really don’t understand the snark and jeers in the comments section about this example of basic investigative physics. Please explain and expound on why it is not valid and deserves ridicule.

    Well, there’s this, of course:

    When spinning the container slowly enough, no vortices occurred at first. But, at a certain critical rotation speed, the flow structure changed. Vortices then occurred inside the flow and the warm fluid was transported faster from the bottom to the top than at lower rotation rates. “It is remarkable that this point exists,” Ahlers said. “You must rotate at a certain speed to get to this critical point.”

    It’s hard to actually explain why there are such jeers at what is a grade three physics experiment. When you turn the cylinder slowly, you don’t get a vortex. When you spin it faster, you do. I mean, seriously? You can buy “tornado” toys that use this principle.

    The funding that will go into this would be far better spent on science classes at the grade school level — not that they’d be doing “experiments” like this, however, since they’d be deemed too elementary.

    One thing we do know — these guys are not smarter than a fifth grader.

  26. Re: jorgekafkazar says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    “I’ve met Guenter Ahlers and I can assure you that he has a first class intellect. ”

    Toilet bowl swirl has long attracted “first class intellects”, beginning with plumbing legend, Sir Thomas Crapper.

  27. @jorgekafkazar

    ‘So far, the great majority of the commenters in this thread are dismissing this article because haven’t a clue as to the actual science involved, possibly either because the press release is written for general readership or because they have insufficient background in science to see beyond the prose therein. I’ve met Guenter Ahlers and I can assure you that he has a first class intellect. I saw him give a paper at an SAACS conference in Redlands, CA. His paper was head and shoulders above anything else presented. I once interviewed for a job in Riverside. When I was told that the other candidate was Dr. Ahlers, I advised the interviewer to hire him if they possibly could.’

    So essentially you fire all cannons trying to sink everyone by trying to impress a bunch of skeptics with the bestest of strategy by appealing to authority or as google apparently would have it, argumentum asinum oscula. :p

  28. Dr. Ahlers might add the sun to his targeted swirling bodies. It appears to respond similarly, but its descent from patterned swirling to chaos is ill understood. But the recurrence to pattern along with the periodic nature of sunspot might make for an interesting subject to gain further knowledge.

  29. @ Peter Walsh:
    Peter Walsh says:
    November 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Quote from start of article

    “The earth’s atmosphere and its molten outer core have one thing in common:”

    Maybe Inner Core???

    Peter, the reason they specifically mentioned the “outer core” as being molten is because from seismic data, we know that S(hear)-waves do not pass through liquids or molten material. Seismic ray paths that pass through the outer core show no S-wave component.

  30. Peter Walsh says:
    November 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Quote from start of article

    “The earth’s atmosphere and its molten outer core have one thing in common:”

    Maybe Inner Core???

    Peter

    Peter: The reason the authors specifically mentioned the “outer core” as being molten is because we know that S(hear)-waves do not pass through molten or liquid substances. Seismic waves that pass through the outer core and reflect off the inner core and are recorded at the surface show no S-wave component. Therefore the conclusion is that the outer core is molten or a liquid.

  31. @ Peter Walsh:
    Peter Walsh says:
    November 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Quote from start of article

    “The earth’s atmosphere and its molten outer core have one thing in
    in common”

    Maybe Inner Core???

    Peter, the reason they specifically mentioned the “outer core” as being molten is because from seismic data, we know that S(hear)-waves do not pass through liquids or molten material. Seismic ray paths that pass through the outer core show no S-wave component.

  32. This is not the Coriolis effect, that is linear, this is nonlinear. A classic Hopf bifurcation laminar-turbulent transition. With increasing rotation speed the system is gradually driven away from equilibrium. At a certain disequilibrium point, nonlinear pattern formation breaks out. The increase in warm fluid transport at the critical transition point could possibly tie in with (and give support to) Willis’ Constructal Law (systems converge to maximise flow of something) despite the hard time his theory was given on a recent thread here. The “boundary forcing” referred to is well known in for instance Rayleigh-Benard pattern formation convection in liquid helium.

  33. Andy J says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    jorgekafkazar says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    David Walton says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm
    ===================================

    Thanks for pointing out that many of the points being made are not on point, which brings me to my point ;o)

    I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this post because it seems so simple – I too had to do some swirly experiments back in the day – and yet there seemed to be something I was missing. I usually like to make a giggler comment on a post like this but something kept niggling at the back of by brain.

    I’ve been checking in on the comments from time to time and each time I come back, I keep scrunching up my eyes and trying to visualize the boundries of a vortex before and after it forms to where we can see it. I intend to check back a few more times until hopefully, I “get it.”

    Anyhow, your comments were the “tipping point” (fair use of that, eh?) to keep on pondering instead of posting something about funding creamer swirls in coffee.

  34. Tell you what… for those 2 people in the entire world who think my post was mocking the study of vortices, check the first two points… they both say “(a good thing)”.

    It is truly unfortunate that with the state of Science lately, the remaining 12 points of my post would be unsurprising, if they were to occur.

    In fact, the study of vortices is serious business, and has innumerable real-world benefits (including those winglets I mentioned, they actually reduce fuel use or increase aircraft range, depending on your perspective).

    Further understanding of physical processes is always a good thing. Personally, I love study of real-world, and while I’m fine with models I think we’ve all seen the “worst case” scenario of simplified model usage taken to ridiculous extremes.

  35. Well I didn’t see that they said anywhere that they have yet discovered that when you flush the toilet in the southern hemisphere, that it rotates, in the opposite direction from the northern hemisphere.

    I can see the need for a research grant to examine toilet flushings from pole to pole to find out what the blazes happens at the equatorial regions, when the flush stops goping one way, and starts going the other way. Perhaps that’s why they don’t have flush toilets in some parts of Africa; because the things simply will not rotate in either direction.

  36. Isn’t the important bit that they have used detailed experimental observations of an effect many of you are familiar with to build a theoretical model in precise mathematical terms?
    math built up without accurate experimental data and not subject to testing/falsification is rubbish (see views on AGW models) but proper math models derived from accurate measurements are to be applauded, surely? Or have I missed something? (whether it is worth the funding I cannot judge, I know next to nothing about fluid dynamics. Just that it can be very important sometimes)

  37. I’d be interested in knowing how they determine rotation rate.

    “We found that when you slow down to a smaller rotation rate, the healing length increases.”

    Wider cylinders would have faster speed at the edges wouldn’t they. Or perhaps speed is not important but rotation is?
    The many of you commentors who have claimed to have done these experiments in days of yore, please explain.

  38. Phlogiston: agree, this experiment is getting at something interesting about how the system is moving energy from one place (hot base) to another (cool top). When the system isn’t rotating, I would bet there are convection cells in the fluid with vertical components but no (or only minor, random) horizontal components. When it rotates, there are shear forces working at the edge of the cylinder (between zero horizontal velocity at the wall, and non-zero velocity in the adjacent fluid). Laminar flow up to some critical velocity and distance from wall; then…? Apparently then there are these vortices, which maybe act to “re-order” the turbulence? And maybe they act as part of the vertical convection cells, somehow increasing the heat flow? I gots no physics here, just some physical intuitions. Help!

  39. May I ask for an off topic help please.

    I’m on a new computer and have forgotten the name of the firefox add on that allows me to “bold” “italicise” “backquote” etc my comments. I think it was created by a regular and was available for download here, at Lucias and Steve Macs

    Thankyou in advance

  40. Didn’t read all the comments above so likely someone else has observed that these guys are the latest in “Spin Doctors” for AGW

    Mike

  41. I find the knee-jerk rejection of the study appalling. For those who say it is some kind of toy or fifth-grade experiment, consider the following:

    The authors showed that their experimental findings are in keeping with a theoretical model similar to the one first developed by Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg and Lev Landau in the theory of superconductivity. That same model is also applicable to other areas of physics such as pattern formation and critical phenomena. The model explains that the very existence of the transition from the state without vortices to the one with them is due to the presence of the sidewalls of the container. For a sample so wide (relative to its height) that the walls become unimportant, the vortices would start to form even for very slow rotation. The model makes it possible to describe the experimental discoveries, reported in the article, in precise mathematical language.

    Historically, finding mathematical descriptions of vortices has been a very difficult problem. The researchers ability to use a theory from superconductivity to describe vortexes in water is indeed a breakthrough. Condescension is unwarranted unless your math is better than that. Mine ain’t …

  42. Are these nodules going to be the new models? I hope not. :o(

    Meanwhile, people in the UK as sick to death of Anthropogenic Snowball Warming.

  43. Teaching your grandmother how to suck eggs seems to be the latest phenomenon in the scientific community. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear of some research team somewhere that has just discovered some amazing fact that anyone that’s lived on earth for more than a decade or two accepts as commonplace everyday knowledge. Seriously , Ners need to get out of the office. That’s the biggest problem with climate science they wouldn’t know sunlight if it burnt their vampiric bodies to ash.

    Next they’ll be telling us that the earth loses heat faster than first thought because of this new found atmospheric effect and that global warming may not be as bad as they first made out. (/sarc=off)

  44. Mike says: “Didn’t read all the comments above…”

    Reading all the prior comments, or even the post itself, seems not to be part of the tribal custom here. Feel free, Mike…

    “…so likely someone else has observed that these guys are the latest in “Spin Doctors” for AGW.”

    Suspicions confirmed. You didn’t read the post. If you had, you’ve have noted that AGW is not mentioned anywhere in the post, Mike. Your attempt at humor is misplaced, as well as not particularly funny.

  45. Notwithstanding the subject matter, this research and article are not spin.

    Interesting that in a containerless wall-less situation, there is no lower limit to the rotational speed required to form a vortex.

  46. GE Smith;
    The SH toilet swirl direction is urban legend, apparently. Details of the geometry of the bowl determine the rotation, far overwhelming the planetary Coriolis Effect.

  47. The rotating cylinder experiment is described in James Glieck’s excellent 1987 pop-sci best-seller ‘Chaos’, which appears to credit Golub and Swinney with the apparatus design, although Ahlers is also mentioned. The work was generally recognised as a major breakthrough in the understanding of turbulence. If Ahlers’ team has added something new then quite likely it is a significant piece of basic science.

    The press release is another matter. By failing to mention prior work and instead immediately linking the research to understanding ‘powerful hurricanes’ I think it gives the wrong impression. I’d be sorry to think that good research like this could only get support by tying itself in some way to ‘climate change’. If anything, the Golub-Swinney experiments show that good basic research deserves support irrespective of political, environmental or social goals.

  48. BrianH: “Interesting that in a containerless wall-less situation, there is no lower limit to the rotational speed required to form a vortex.” Now, that is very cool indeed. I did read the link to the Einstein paper about why tea leaves/rivers cut the way they do, but the physics is still…just…over the horizon for me. The idea that the authors have gotten good mathematics out of this experiment is pretty impressive.

  49. Brian H “Interesting that in a containerless wall-less situation, there is no lower limit to the rotational speed required to form a vortex.”

    Slow down – where does the PR say that? Or is it in the paper? Take the rotational speed down to zero and do you still get vortices?

  50. Willis Eschenbach says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm
    “I find the knee-jerk rejection of the study appalling.”

    What is the big deal? Must we bow to the god of science? We’re Americans, for Christ’s sake. We’re having fun!

  51. What we see are two converging explanations that help us understand natural phenomena resulting in climate change. Key to this understanding are the concepts of a `torque’ and what is described as the natural power of `swirling vortices’ as these phenomena relate to the the atmosphere, the oceans, the Earth’s `molten outer core,’ and the formation of Earth’s magnetic field and their effects on climate change.

    Adriano Mazzarella (2008) criticized the GCM modelers’ reductionist approach because it failed to account for the many of the factors that can only be understood by taking a holistic approach to global warming. One of these factors is itself just a part but an important larger process that might be describe as a single unit comprised of the `Earth’s rotation/sea temperature.’

    Holistically, however, Mazzarella notes that changes in this ‘single unit’ are a result in part of changes in `atmospheric circulation which, like a torque,’ and that alone can cause `the Earth’s rotation to decelerate which, in turn, causes a decrease in sea temperature.’

    Similarly, UCSB researchers (the results to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters) seem to be developing a theory of mathematics to help describe this process. The UCSB team `filled the laboratory cylinders with water, and heated the water from below and cooled it from above,’ to better understand the dynamics of atmospheric circulation and `swirling natural phenomena’ observed in nature.

    We can apply all of this to Earth science. And, it should not take long before it can be conclusively shown that Trenbreth is never going to find the global warming that he is looking for in the deep recesses of the ocean. The reason is simple: it’s not a ‘travesty’ that we can’t find it. We can’t find it because it’s not there.

    No matter how much AGW True Believers may wish otherwise, global cooling is not proof of global warming. Hopefully soon, the mathematics of the UCSB researchers will reveal that given differences in ocean temperature, for example, especially in a real world example where the Earth rotating on its axis with warm water at the bottom, the cold water on the top will sink. The difference in the temperature from top to bottom will of itself be a ‘causal factor’ that drives the flow.

    I think we all knew this already. We know it as a simple process of convection. But, let’s hope that the mathematics of it all will help make the AGW government science authoritarians stop acting like persecutors of Galileo.

  52. Re: Brian H says:
    November 30, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    GE Smith;
    The SH toilet swirl direction is urban legend, apparently. Details of the geometry of the bowl determine the rotation, far overwhelming the planetary Coriolis Effect.

    The properly rotating bowl was developed by Sir Thomas Crapper (revisionist historians dispute that claim, but the name resides in immortality). The reverse rotating bowl was developed by a typically contrary French inventor named Francois Lew Du Pew. The French bowl failed properly perform its intended function (and hence the expression, “Pew Wee!).

  53. OK, regarding the snark and grade three snark from Frank Lee MeiDere and others.

    Getting a true understanding the complex processes of laminar flow in a simple experiment has value. You may think you did this in the third grade but I doubt you or anyone else in your class made any real sense of it. Which is the point, no?

    Our world is built upon small advances in “third grade” experimentation. From the basics of thermodynamics (heat flows from hot to cold, oh how K-12!) to the extremely fine domains of magnetic hard drives to hardened fuel cells in space craft.

  54. Having designed a good many hydraulic projects, I understand the point of the study. Laminar flow, which is predictable as opposed to turbulent flow, which is not predictable, and the need to determine when it will change from one to the other, but to try to tie the experiment to atmospheric movements seems foolish.

    The atmosphere is on the surface of the planet, and its density varies greatly with elevation. Plus, relative to the thickness of the atmosphere, the surface is, in places, extremely rough. High coefficient of friction, and the coefficient of friction is not at all constant.

  55. I won’t speak for anyone else, but my snark is based on the press release in which two physicists appear to have discovered that if you turn a container with liquid in it slowly, you don’t get a vortex. When you spin it more quickly, you do. Further, that this vortex occurs in the centre, and not near the sides. They also appear to have figured out that the size and shape of the container have an effect — something I’m sure the folks at Tedco and Slinky also worked out when they were making their tornado toys.

    If this hasn’t already been looked at in labs then the state of science is in much worse shape than I thought. Science Ouroboros: Vortex Mania

  56. Baa Humbug says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:47 pm (Edit)

    May I ask for an off topic help please.

    I’m on a new computer and have forgotten the name of the firefox add on that allows me to “bold” “italicise” “backquote” etc my comments. I think it was created by a regular and was available for download here, at Lucias and Steve Macs

    Thankyou in advance

    greasemonkey

  57. It was a cold day, completely snowed in, got to do something or the lab will lose the grant ah heat the water dip the tea bag, apply rotational force, and the rest is history!!

    Similar to making paper planes and flying them I guess….

  58. Willis Eschenbach says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I agree, the Ginzburg-Landau equations are fundamental to the field of nonlinear dynamics and phase space landscapes. To re-iterate my earlier posting:

    This is not the Coriolis effect, that is linear, this is nonlinear. A classic Hopf bifurcation laminar-turbulent transition. With increasing rotation speed the system is gradually driven away from equilibrium. At a certain disequilibrium point, nonlinear pattern formation breaks out. The increase in warm fluid transport at the critical transition point could possibly tie in with (and give support to) Willis’ Constructal Law (systems converge to maximise flow of something) despite the hard time his theory was given on a recent thread here. The “boundary forcing” referred to is well known in for instance Rayleigh-Benard pattern formation convection in liquid helium.

  59. oMan says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Phlogiston: agree, this experiment is getting at something interesting about how the system is moving energy from one place (hot base) to another (cool top). When the system isn’t rotating, I would bet there are convection cells in the fluid with vertical components but no (or only minor, random) horizontal components. When it rotates, there are shear forces working at the edge of the cylinder (between zero horizontal velocity at the wall, and non-zero velocity in the adjacent fluid). Laminar flow up to some critical velocity and distance from wall; then…? Apparently then there are these vortices, which maybe act to “re-order” the turbulence? And maybe they act as part of the vertical convection cells, somehow increasing the heat flow? I gots no physics here, just some physical intuitions. Help!

    I’m not an expert at the maths either, I just try to get my head around chaotic and non-linear phenomena qualitatively. Pure turbulence is chaotic and devoid of emergent pattern formation – so i dont think that vortices are part of actual chaos in the strict sense – correct me if I’m wrong someone. The phenomena of spontaneous nonlinear pattern formation, or “emergent pattern” occurs at the boundary as a system transitions from linear – e.g. laminar flow – to chaotic. A major feature of this pattern formation is the attractor or “strange attractor” – “strange” because it appears for no apparent reason. I think that vortices are attractors – thus attempts to mechanically describe why they occur are futile. (Attractors are a “subset of the system phase space to which the evolving system converges”. The “phase space” is the multi-dimensional set of all parameters which describe the system.) Although emergent pattern is at the transition to chaos only and thus might be unstable, this instability is opposed by the phenomenon of Lyapunov stability by which attractors, once formed, have more stability and persistence than might be expected – thus the vortices from an aircraft wing persist several miles behind the plane. Chaos and turbulence by contrast destroy emergent pattern, so the term “chaotic attractor” is incorrect and a contradiction.

    If vortices are trying to “re-order” the turbulence as you suggest (good description), this could be the operation of Lyapunov stability in reasserting the attractor.

    As I mentioned in my reply to Willis (and original comment) the mention of increased flow at the nonlinear transition seems to agree with the prediction of “Constructal Law” that a system converges on a state that maximises flow – provided that the transitional pattern formation regime is favoured – as Lyapunov stability states that it should be.

  60. At least poster has stated that the Coriolis effect is not applicable in the lab. However, there are similar effects, on a small scale, relating to conservation of angular momentum that were once demonstrated by astronauts. Maybe videos exist on YouTube.

    The maths for all of this are the Navier – Stokes equations and they do not have analytical solutions so computer modelling and re – iteration is necessary which is the world of the climate modellers – only they have even more variables.
    It is difficult determining if this experiment has any relevance. Their observations are already known.

  61. I found many people here reducing these findings to a ridicule, it is the lack of research into the very basic simple things that has failed science. Fluid dynamics , vortices and chaotic flow are not well understood. Temperature and its dynamics in the mix are also some what of a mystery. That some one of intelligence is doing basic research should be applauded.

  62. jack morrow says:
    November 30, 2010 at 9:39 am
    Wow, what deep,intriguing experiments. Takes real “scientists” to come up with yet another hair brain model. Where do all these people come from? I’m sorry, but I seem to have lost faith in the scientific community as a whole.
    ——————
    You have not been paying attention. Newton, Faraday, Galileo all did this kind of superficially simple experiment and had the insight to make something of it. Many of their contemporaries went poo-poo in much the same way that you do. They were wrong.

    The experimental setup described in the article is rather old. The result is new observations in the critical transition region from laminar to tubulent flow, if I am skimming the article properly. That’s important.

    All of the poo-poo- ers did not read the article properly or understand what was being described. For example it had nothing whatsoever to do with the coriolis effect.

  63. #
    LazyTeenager says:
    December 1, 2010 at 5:11 am
    ####

    I think it is a real bad sign when the first thing I do in the morning is to agree with a LazyTeenager comment.

    But you are absolutely correct. The most important experiments are the simple ones, and here we have an incredibly simple mechanism that displays, predictably and repeatably, a very complicated behavior that is found in many places.

  64. I’m disappointed in the snotty comments about some simple experiments that advance understanding of complex natural phenomena.

    I expected better of the folks here.

  65. To those snarking at the snarkers:

    If there is anything of true import going on here, or any phenomena that have not been seen before, I’m completely missing it. True, the last paragraph makes some vague comments about this research relating to Ginzburg and Landau’s work in superconductivity, but then shooting paperclips with an elastic band can be related to rocket launches — doesn’t make it important.

    If it weren’t for the quotes from the principle physicists gushing over the “unexpected phenomenon” of a vortex forming when the cylinder is spun fast enough, or that vortices keep away from the walls of the container, I would be content to simply ridicule this as a very bad press release — and Lord knows there are plenty of those. But the quotes from the scientists themselves seem remarkably damning.

    I’m very happy that those with in-depth knowledge about fluid dynamics can peer into this morass of triviality to find significance, but to the general reader this is nothing more than a couple of physicists playing with toys that can be bought from any science shop.

    Of course Newton and Galileo and a host of others have done small, simple experiments. But with the vast amount of research already done in the field of fluid dynamics, ranging from pure research to children’s toys, I have to assume that someone at some point has already noticed the “unexpected phenomenon” that “[w]hen spinning the container slowly enough, no vortices occurred at first. But, at a certain critical rotation speed, the flow structure changed. Vortices then occurred inside the flow”. And yes, “the warm fluid [is then] transported faster from the bottom to the top than at lower rotation rates.”

    For those of us without specialised knowledge, it is indeed not at all “remarkable that this point exists,” nor that “[y]ou must rotate at a certain speed to get to this critical point.”

    Hence — snarks.

  66. Enough with the jeers you mob…. Observation is science…… “The authors showed that their experimental findings are in keeping with a theoretical model similar to the one first developed by Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg and Lev Landau in the theory of superconductivity. “……..

    This is what they are doing, then expressing the findings in mathematical terms…… They are doin’ science guys. So quit th’ sneerin’, ya hobos.

  67. CodeTech says:
    November 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm
    Tell you what… for those 2 people in the entire world who think my post was mocking the study of vortices, check the first two points… they both say “(a good thing)”.

    It is truly unfortunate that with the state of Science lately, the remaining 12 points of my post would be unsurprising, if they were to occur.

    In fact, the study of vortices is serious business, and has innumerable real-world benefits (including those winglets I mentioned, they actually reduce fuel use or increase aircraft range, depending on your perspective).

    ####################
    damn serious business. For three years I worked for a company that studied forebody vortices on high performance aircraft ( F16 etc). never did much work with VGs most of the work was focused on trying to use the vortex as a control, trippy stuff.

  68. J.Hansford says:
    December 1, 2010 at 10:34 am
    Enough with the jeers you mob…. Observation is science…… “The authors showed that their experimental findings are in keeping with a theoretical model similar to the one first developed by Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg and Lev Landau in the theory of superconductivity. “……..

    This is what they are doing, then expressing the findings in mathematical terms…… They are doin’ science guys. So quit th’ sneerin’, ya hobos.

    By chance, do you mean “yobbos”?

    And yes — as I said, there’s a vague reference to Ginzburg and Landau. Perhaps they too discovered that when cylinders are spun vortices appear (but only if spun fast enough). I’ve read countless press releases in which some claim is made (always at the end) that this relates to some important previous work, but upon closer investigation the link is about as important as that between shooting paperclips and rocket science.

    The point remains that given the information provided, this looks like nothing more than an over-hyped play date. Is there more to it? Maybe. But not from where an average reader is sitting.

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