Research

The Driver of Hydraulic Jumps

View into a kitchen sink with a falling jet of water and a ring in the bottom of the sink

You’ve seen it a million times. When you turn on your kitchen faucet, the falling water forms a distinctive ring – known as a hydraulic jump – in the bottom of your sink. First described by Leonardo da Vinci, this phenomenon has been studied for centuries, and, for nearly all of that time, scientists assumed that gravity played a major role, even in kitchen-sink-sized hydraulic jumps. But that’s not the case.

A newly published study shows that gravity can’t be a major player in setting the radius of these small-scale hydraulic jumps because they form the same whether the jet impinges from above, below, or sideways. Instead, the researchers found that surface tension and viscosity are the parameters that determine the jump’s formation. It’s not every day that you get to overturn a centuries-old theory in physics! (Image credit: J. Kilfiger; research credit: R. Bhagat et al.; via Silicon Republic; submitted by Patrick D.)

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