Swirling flow patterns in a computer simulation of turbulence
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of G. Brethouwer (Royal Inst. Tech., Sweden)
Turbulence: All Mixed Up
If you've ever ridden in an airplane, you might have some idea what turbulence
is. When an airplane flies through a turbulent place in the atmosphere it will
bounce around a bit as the wind outside blows the plane in different directions.
Nothing to worry about - turbulence is natural and it happens all over the
universe, from river rapids to ocean
waves to Jovian planets to stars
to nebulae! You can even see turbulence
when you pour milk into a cup of hot tea.
Turbulence is just a fluid
moving around crazily so it's all mixed up. Turbulent flows are filled with
swirling and spiraling motions. This is especially true if the object itself
is spinning like a planet or star where the
Coriolis effect causes winds and currents to curve and wiggle around. It's
difficult to predict what a turbulent flow is going to do because of something
called the butterfly
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