Shadows of Flow

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In the latest Veritasium video, Derek demonstrates how to see gas motions that are normally invisible using a schlieren photography set-up. Schlieren techniques have been important in fluid dynamics for well over a century, and Derek’s set-up is one of the two most common ways to set up the technique. (The other method uses two collimating mirrors instead of a single spherical or parabolic one.) As explained in the video, the schlieren optical set-up is sensitive to small changes in the refractive index, making density changes or differences in a gas visible. This makes it possible to distinguish gases of different temperatures or compositions and even lets you see shock waves in supersonic flows. (Video and image credit: Veritasium; submitted by Paul)

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