Phenomena

Starting a Lighter

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Lots of fluids are transparent, which makes it hard for us to appreciate their motion. One technique for making these invisible motions visible is schlieren photography, which makes differences in density visible. Here it’s combined with high-speed video to show what happens when you use a lighter (minus the spark!). When the fuel starts flowing, it’s unstable and turbulent, but after that initial start-up, you can see the jet settle into a smooth and laminar flow. Wisps of fuel diffuse away from the jet as the fluid disperses. As the valve shuts off, the flow becomes unstable again, and the remains of the lighter fluid diffuse away. (Video credit: The Missing Detail)

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