The Fluid Dynamical Sewing Machine

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Originally posted: 3 Jan 2012 Nonlinearity and chaos are important topics for many aspects of fluid dynamics but can be difficult to wrap one’s head around. But this video provides an awesome, direct example of one of the key concepts of nonlinear systems–namely, bifurcation. What you see is a thread of very viscous fluid, like honey, falling on a moving belt. Initially, the belt is moving quickly and the thread falls in a straight line. When the belt slows down, the thread begins to meander sinusoidally. With additional changes in the belt’s speed, the thread begins to coil. A multitude of other patterns are possible, too, just by varying the height of the thread and the speed of the belt. Each of these shifts in behavior is a bifurcation. Understanding how and why systems display these behaviors helps unravel the mysteries of chaos. (Video credit: S. Morris et al.)

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