The quantitative study of how fluids (gases and liquids) move.

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What really allows airplanes to fly?

What aerodynamic effects actually contribute to producing the lift on an airplane? I know there's a common belief that lift comes from the Bernoulli effect, where air moving over the wings is at ...
78
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8answers
9k views

Why does a helium filled ballon move forward in a car when the car is accelerating?

I noticed that when I had a helium filled, latex ballon inside of my car, it moved forward in the cabin as I accelerated forward. The faster I accelerated forward, the faster the ballon went from the ...
45
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12answers
8k views

How long a straw could Superman use?

To suck water through a straw, you create a partial vacuum in your lungs. Water rises through the straw until the pressure in the straw at the water level equals atmospheric pressure. This ...
43
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2answers
723 views

Analog Hawking radiation

I am confused by most discussions of analog Hawking radiation in fluids (see, for example, the recent experimental result of Weinfurtner et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 021302 (2011), ...
42
votes
8answers
20k views

Why does the atmosphere rotate along with the earth?

I was reading somewhere about a really cheap way of travelling: using balloons to get ourselves away from the surface of the earth. The idea held that because the earth rotates, we should be ...
42
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7answers
3k views

Explaining to a five year old - why don't bubbles run like water

My five-year old daughter was asking about astronauts the other day and why they float in space. After me showing her a few bits on the kids section on the NASA web site I started explaining about the ...
40
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5answers
13k views

How effective is speeding?

At a simple level, speeding in a car attempts to minimize the time required to travel a distance by utilizing the basic relationship: $$d=st$$ So for a given distance, time should be inversely ...
37
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10answers
7k views

Why does dust stick to rotating fan propeller?

Why does dust stick to rotating fan propeller? Intuitively, most people (including I) think of the dust will not stick to rotating fan propellers. EDIT 1: Thank you for the great explanations. I am ...
36
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7answers
11k views

How can two seas not mix?

How can two seas not mix? I think this is commonly known and the explanation everyone gives is "because they have different densities". What I get is that they eventually will mix, but this process ...
31
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2answers
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Before a once-warm lake starts to freeze, must its temperature be 4°C throughout at some point?

This is a problem I just started puzzling over, and I felt this would be a good forum to check my reasoning. So here are the relevant observations followed by my question: Water achieves its maximum ...
30
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3answers
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What is the fallacy in this infinite motion machine?

I realize this isn't possible, but I can't see why not, especially if you change the model a little bit so that the balls simply travel through a tube of water on the way up, rather than exactly ...
29
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3answers
2k views

What is the minimum pressure of a medium for which a sound wave can exist?

At what pressure will be particles in a medium be unable to form a sound wave when disturbed? How can this pressure be described mathematically? My guess is that this would correspond to the point at ...
29
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2answers
890 views

What forces are at work causing sand to migrate to the centre of a spinning bucket of water? [duplicate]

A bucket is filled with water and a handful of sand. The water is then spun. Why and what forces are in play which cause the sand particles to congregate in the centre of the bucket?
29
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3answers
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When water climbs up a piece of paper, where is the energy coming from?

Take a glass of water and piece of toilet paper. If you keep the paper vertical, and touch the surface of the water with the tip of the paper, you can see the water being absorbed and climbing up the ...
29
votes
10answers
2k views

Mechanics around a rail tank wagon

Some time ago I came across a problem which might be of interest to the physics.se, I think. The problem sounds like a homework problem, but I think it is not trivial (i am still thinking about it): ...
29
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3answers
2k views

Floating a ping pong ball in the air just using a pen!

Caution: Apparently this problem is harder than it seems! There is a well known phenomena, which I first learnt about when I was a 10 years old kid. You can levitate a ping pong(or whatever ...
29
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4answers
7k views

What causes ballpoint pens to write intermittently?

After a while, a ball point pen doesn't write very well anymore. It will write for a little distance, then leave a gap, then maybe write in little streaks, then maybe write properly again. It seems ...
28
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4answers
1k views

How much information about the scale of a waterfall can be obtained from its sound?

Is it possible to constrain the height, volume flow, or distance of a waterfall from the quantitative analysis of a high-quality recording of its sound? As an aside, the simulated sounds of fluid ...
28
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3answers
2k views

Wind generators - why so few blades?

Why commercial wind generators usually have just 2-3 blades? Having more blades would allow to increase power OR decrease diameter. Decreased diameter would also reduce stress due to different wind ...
23
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3answers
4k views

Is this really a golden ratio spiral?

In this blog post, I found this picture: Does the water really form golden ratio spiral in such cases? Or is the photo just a provocative example, without physics grounds for claims about ...
23
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3answers
1k views

What nonlinear deformations will a fast rotating planet exhibit?

It is common knowledge among the educated that the Earth is not exactly spherical, and some of this comes from tidal forces and inhomogeneities but some of it comes from the rotation of the planet ...
22
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4answers
2k views

Have we figured out how to analyze turbulent fluids?

I was surprised to read that we don't know how to analyze turbulent fluids. On page 3-9 of The Feynman Lectures on Physics (Volume One), Feynman writes: Finally, there is a physical problem that ...
20
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1answer
751 views

Minimum viscosity of liquids

In a lecture by Purcell he mentions that he notices that there aren't any liquids with viscosities much less than that of water, even though they go up seemingly unbounded. In an endnote (endnote 1 in ...
19
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2answers
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Why does a nuclear explosion have directionality?

It just occurred to me that almost all images I've seen of the (in)famous mushroom cloud show a vertical column rising perpendicular to the ground and a horizontal planar ring parallel to the ground. ...
19
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1answer
361 views

Flames with no gravity?

I was watching "Solaris" (Tarkovsky) today, and noticed this: in some moment the space station changed orbit and the people inside experienced zero-gravity. At that moment, a candlestick passed ...
18
votes
1answer
822 views

How can the Moon have such a strong effect on the ocean?

The gravitational acceleration on Earth is approximately $ 10 \mathrm{m}/\mathrm{s}^2 $. Compared to this, the tidal effect of the Moon's gravity gives a local variation in the acceleration of ...
18
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3answers
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Why does the sound pitch increase on every consecutive tick at the bottom of a filled cup of coffee?

Since I don't know the proper physical terms for this, I describe it in everyday English. The following has kept me wondering for quite some time and so far I haven't found a reasonable explanation. ...
18
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4answers
566 views

Why does the fundamental mode of a recorder disappear when you blow harder?

I have a simple recorder, like this: When I cover all the holes and blow gently, it blows at about 550 Hz, but when I blow more forcefully, it jumps an octave and blows 1100 Hz. What's the ...
16
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2answers
544 views

How deep is the Great Red Spot?

The Great Red Spot (GRS) is a very persistent storm system that's easily visible through a telescope on the surface of Jupiter. But what is the three-dimensional structure of the GRS, and how deep ...
16
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2answers
353 views

Stripeless cleaning of windows

Cross post: http://chemistry.stackexchange.com/q/4377/22 Last week I was discussing with a friend how we thought the stripeless cleaning of windows is achieved when using a cleaner like Windex ...
15
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2answers
190 views
+100

Branching lemon drop “smoke rings”

This might be hard to ask, but here goes nothing. I recently poured a cup of water into a black coffee cup. There was a light source--not very bright--above the cup. Anyways, I was squeezing a ...
15
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1answer
203 views

What are the equations of motion of a hole in a soap bubble?

Imagine the following situation: I have a thin stationary water film, like a soap bubble, suspended inside a large ring. I throw a small loop of string onto the film and punch a hole inside it. How ...
14
votes
1answer
243 views

How fast would a truck have to go to pull a pedestrian onto the road? [closed]

Let's suppose a pedestrian P is walking or standing next to a highway. Suppose a truck T will drive by the said pedestrian at speed V leaving distance L between the two. Assuming L is a reasonably ...
13
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5answers
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Why planes have propellers in front but watercraft have them behind?

Why do propeller airplanes mostly have their propellers in front (of the fuselage or wings) while ships and boats mostly have them at the back? I realize that there are aircraft with pusher ...
13
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4answers
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Why is exhaling more forceful than inhaling?

By blowing at pencil, a piece of paper, or another object up to fifty centimeters away, I can cause it to move away from me significantly. But I can't move an object toward myself by inhaling sharply ...
13
votes
8answers
2k views

Why there's a whirl when you drain the bathtub?

At first I thought it's because of Coriolis, but then someone told me that at the bathtub scale that's not the predominant force in this phenomenon.
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Why doesn't water come out of tap/faucet at high pressure when I turn it on?

(tap=faucet) When I turn a tap on full and then put my thumb over the spout covering, say, 90% of it, then the water spurts out. If I turn it on to, say 10%, then the water dribbles out. What's the ...
13
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4answers
610 views

Why does string not wick down?

I regularly drink tea at work and I often reuse the tea bags (yes I know I'm a cheapskate). Yesterday afternoon I used a tea bag once and kept it in the cup in case I wanted another cup before I ...
13
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3answers
1k views

How to freeze the Niagara waterfalls?

Here is a picture of the usual vigorous Niagara Falls (in the winter). Here is the picture of Niagara Falls frozen in 1933 (in the very cold winter). Here is the picture of Niagara Falls frozen in ...
13
votes
2answers
496 views

How does liquid in a ball affect its rotational acceleration down a ramp?

Suppose we have a shell with mass $M$ and radius $R$. If we let that roll without slipping down a ramp of angle theta to the horizontal, we can easily find the acceleration of the shell the instant ...
12
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5answers
746 views

Is flying really easier on smaller scales?

In the book Playing with Planets, the author makes the following argument, pertinent to flying robots of the future: As it is, an important law of physics says that smaller organisms fly much more ...
12
votes
3answers
464 views

Occurrence of turbulences in Fluid Dynamics from the equations of motion?

How can it be shown that turbulences occur in Fluid Dynamics? I think poeple imply that they develope because of the $\text{rot}$ terms in the equations of motion, i.e. the Navier-Stokes equations, ...
12
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1answer
4k views

Did Felix Baumgartner produce a sonic boom during his jump?

I really got to thinking about this. The speed of sound is measured at 761.2 MPH at sea level. But how does this number change as air density decreases? The lack of air density is what allowed his ...
12
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2answers
3k views

What is the mystery of turbulence?

One of the great unsolved problems in physics is turbulence but I'm not too clear what the mystery is. Does it mean that the Navier-Stokes equations don't have any turbulent phenomena even if we solve ...
12
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1answer
344 views

Why is there a breakdown in Kolmogorov scaling in turbulence?

Why is there a breakdown of Kolmogorov scaling in turbulence? What causes intermittency?
12
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2answers
16k views

What exactly is the difference between advection and convection?

After reading Wikipedia articles on advection and convection, I still cannot determine whether there is a consensus on a difference between these two terms. Sometimes, the term convection seems to ...
12
votes
3answers
635 views

How to show that the Coriolis effect is irrelevant for the whirl/vortex in the sink/bathtub?

There is a common myth that water flowing out from a sink should rotate in direction governed by on which hemisphere we are; this is shown false in many household experiments, but how to show it ...
12
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2answers
1k views

How does a sponge “suck” up water against gravity?

If I take a sponge and place it in a shallow dish of water (i.e. water level is lower than height of sponge), it absorbs water until the sponge is wet, including a portion of the sponge above the ...
12
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2answers
191 views

Cascade in relativistic turbulence

The Kolmogorov theory of turbulence indicates an energy cascade in turbulence. Is there a corresponding version of relativistic fluid?
12
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4answers
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Vortex in liquid collects particles in center

At xmas, I had a cup of tea with some debris at the bottom from the leaves. With less than an inch of tea left, I'd shake the cup to get a little vortex going, then stop shaking and watch it spin. ...