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

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98
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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 ...
72
votes
8answers
5k 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
votes
12answers
7k 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
votes
2answers
696 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
17k 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
votes
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 ...
36
votes
10answers
6k 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
8k 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 ...
29
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2answers
847 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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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 ...
29
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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): ...
28
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
27
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3answers
2k views

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 ...
25
votes
4answers
789 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 ...
24
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
24
votes
3answers
2k views

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 ...
24
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4answers
5k 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 ...
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 ...
19
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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 ...
19
votes
1answer
342 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
3answers
2k views

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
votes
1answer
674 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
751 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
525 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
votes
2answers
299 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
votes
2answers
445 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
187 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 ...
13
votes
4answers
969 views

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
5answers
669 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
899 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
438 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
1k views

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 ...
12
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.
12
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2answers
958 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 ...
12
votes
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
votes
1answer
328 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
votes
2answers
170 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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0answers
131 views

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

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. How fast would the truck have ...
12
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4answers
1k views

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. ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

Does a wing in a potential flow have lift?

I have a hard time understanding whether or not a wing placed in a potential flow, assuming there is no viscosity and no friction with the wing, will produce a lift. I've seen several contradictory ...
11
votes
3answers
392 views

Why $\log \rho$ in the continuity equation?

I just saw the continuity equation, in a manuscript, written as $$\frac{\partial \log \rho }{\partial t} + \vec v \cdot \nabla \log \rho= - \nabla \cdot \vec v.$$ Now, just calculating the derivatives ...
11
votes
2answers
697 views

Is the meander ratio of a river $= \pi$?

To get from point $A$ to $B$, a river will take a path that is $\pi$ times longer than as the crow flies (I think this result is from Einstein). What is the proof of this, and how well does it hold ...
11
votes
1answer
539 views

Why does my natural whistle have a maximum volume

When I whistle, I find that I can vary the volume by pushing more or less air through my mouth at once. However, when I increase volume past a point, I start to hear a blend of rushing air and a ...
11
votes
2answers
640 views

How to model/simulate pressures and flows in a network of pipes

I'm having a hard time finding information on how to model/simulate this. I attached a couple files, both of which show an example tank & pump network. It's just nonsense that I made up for this ...
11
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3answers
519 views

Can Increasing the Turbulence Inside a Pipeline Economically Increase Flow?

"The velocity gradient in turbulent flows is steeper close to the wall and less steep in the center of the pipe than it is for laminar flows (Blatt p.97)." Does this mean that some degree of ...
10
votes
2answers
759 views

Is it possible to travel at precisely the speed of sound?

I've been talking to a friend, and he said that it's impossible to travel at exactly the same speed as the speed of sound is. He argued that it's only possible to break through the sound barrier using ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

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. ...
10
votes
5answers
666 views

Why cant one see tidal effects in a glass of water?

Why cant one see the tidal effect in a glass of water like in an ocean?
10
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8answers
4k views

Why do ice cubes come out easier from top trays?

This is my "hey, I've noticed that too!" question for the week. If you stack two plastic ice cube trays with water in them in a freezer, the resulting ice cubes in the top tray will usually come out ...
10
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3answers
431 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, ...