Phenomena

Greening the River

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Every year Chicago dyes its river green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. This timelapse video shows this year’s dyeing, including several passes from a boat distributing the green dye. The color is remarkably slow to diffuse. The boat’s passage does little to affect the motion of the dye already in the river. This is because the boat mainly disturbs the surface and most of the color comes from dye spread throughout the water. It’s like if you tried to stir milk into your coffee just by tapping the surface with your spoon. Instead, the slower, large-scale turbulent motion of the river distributes the dye. For more St. Patrick’s Day physics, be sure to check out Guinness physics and why tapping a beer makes it foam. (Video credit: P. Tsai; submitted by Bobby E.)

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