Making a Square Vortex

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As someone who has played with her share of vortex cannons, I can assure you that messing around with smoke generators and vortex rings is a lot of fun. And in this video, Dianna gives things a little twist: she makes the vortex cannon’s mouth a square instead of a circle.

Now, that doesn’t create a square vortex ring. (Vortex rings don’t really do 90-degree corners.) But it does make the vortex ring all neat and wobbly. Whenever you have two vortices near one another (or, in this case, two parts of a vortex line near one another), they interact. As Dianna shows with hurricanes, depending on the direction of rotation and their relative strength, nearby vortices can orbit one another or travel together in straight lines – or they can cause more complicated interactions, like in the case of the square-launched rings.

I think there may also be some interesting effects here from vortex stretching, but that’s a topic for another day! (Video and image credit: D. Cowern/Physics Girl; see also: LIBLAB; submitted by Maria-Isabel C.)

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