Be water, my friend

Posted: March 7, 2013 in X-treme physics
Tags: , , ,

Well, this is so NOT scifi, but still one of my fav series ever, anyway: Avatar, the last Airbender, from Nickelodeon (please, do not even mention the -horrible- movie –): a land where some people are born with the ability to “bend” elements (water, fire, air and earth) to their will. Wouldn’t it be cool to bend water like Korra?

The thing is that it is actually possible to “bend” water, at least according to Irvine Labs in the University of Chicago. These guys are interested in “knotting” unusual stuff, like magnetic fields, but their latest publication in Nature focuses on knotting water by twisting the entire 3D volume of a fluid within a confined region (vortex). The idea is loosely based on how air behaves around a plane wing.

Dustin Kleckner and William Irvine have now created a knotted vortex using a miniature version of an aeroplane wing built with a 3D printer. The researchers submerged their tiny wings in a tank of water and gave it a sudden acceleration to create a knotted structure. Here’s how a  a scanning tomography setup in three dimensions at high speed (~10 GVoxels/second) of knotted water looks:


And here is their recording of the whole process in the lab:

Bad news is there’s no waterbending in our future, but if we consider that fluid dynamics are involved in aeronautics, acoustics and meteorology, just to name some fields, maybe there’s some down to earth, cool application in the horizon for things like this too.


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