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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 effect.

Last modified November 16, 2005 by Randy Russell.

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