Phenomena

The Physics of Sneezing

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Sneezing can be a major factor in the spread of some illnesses. Not only does sneezing spew out a cloud of tiny pathogen-bearing droplets, but it also releases a warm, moist jet of air. Flows like this that combine both liquid and gas phases are called multiphase flows, and they can be a challenge to study because of the interactions between the phases. For example, the buoyancy of the air jet helps keep smaller droplets aloft, allowing them to travel further or even get picked up and spread by environmental systems. Researchers hope that studying the fluid dynamics and mathematics of these turbulent multiphase clouds will help predict and control the spread of pathogens. Check out the Bourouiba research group for more. (Video credit: Science Friday)

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