Rotational Effects

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Rotation can cause non-intuitive effects in fluid dynamical systems. UCLA Spinlab’s newest video tackles the problem using four demonstrations. The first two deal with droplets released in air, first in a non-rotating environment and then in a rotating one. As one would expect, in a non-rotating environment, droplets fall through the tank in a straight line. When rotating, though, the droplets follow a deflected, straight-line path due to centrifugal effects. This is the same as the way passengers in a car feel like they’re being thrown to the outside of a turn on a curvy road. When the experiment is repeated with a tank of water instead of air, the results are different. The densities of the creamer and water are much closer to one another, so the droplet falls much slower than before. The tank now rotates faster than time it takes the drop to fall. This smaller timescale means that the droplet experiences more acceleration from Coriolis forces than centrifugal forces in the rotating tank of water. Thus, instead of being thrown outward, the drop now forms a column aligned with the axis of rotation. (Video credit: UCLA Spinlab; submitted by Jon B.)

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