Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Solving The Big Problems In Math And Physics

If you think math and physics are good only for building rockets and bridges and airplanes and computers, think again:
One of the more intriguing conundrums in fluid dynamics is the puzzling behaviour of bubbles in Guinness, the famous Irish stout.

As many drinkers will attest, the bubbles in Guinness appear to sink as the drink settles and the head forms. How can this be, given that bubbles are less dense than the surrounding fluid and so should rise?

Over the last ten years or so, physicists have begun to pick this problem apart. Most recently they've shown that it is not the bubbles that sink but the liquid, which circulates in a way that is downwards near the glass walls and upwards in the interior.  As long as the downward flow of the liquid is faster than the upward motion of the bubbles, they will appear to sink.

But that still leaves a puzzle: why does the liquid circulate in this way?

Today, a dedicated team of Irish mathematicians reveal the answer. Eugene Benilov, Cathal Cummins and William Lee at the University of Limerick say the final piece in this puzzle is the shape of the glass, which has a crucial influence over the circulatory patterns in the liquid.
So there you have it.

1 comment:

Joshua Sasmor said...

Three cheers for fluid dynamics!! I recall many a Friday afternoon after the graduate student colloquia going to the bar across the street from the math building for a beer. So we really were studying :)