Research

A Buoyant Rise

Hold a buoyant sphere like a ping pong ball underwater and let it go, and you’ll find that the ball pops up out of the water. Intuitively, you would think that letting the ball go from a lower depth would make it pop up higher – after all, it has a greater distance to accelerate over, right? But it turns out that the highest jumps comes from balls that rise the shortest distance. When released at greater depths, the buoyant sphere follows a path that swerves from side to side. This oscillating path is the result of vortices being shed off the ball, first on one side and then the other. (Image and research credit: T. Truscott et al.)

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