Is turbulence simply the breakdown of order? Or is it, in fact, order by another name? Cosmic winds, the human heartbeat, and financial markets all have it. What commonalities persist among all these examples? Can turbulence be controlled, and should we try?
Public, Pointed Scientific Spats—Feature, Not Bug
Galileo is the archetypal paradigm-busting scientist telling truth to hidebound authorities.Felix Parra: Galileo Demonstrating the New Astronomical Theories at the University of Padua, 1873. There’s a common trope in science in which a lone genius stands defiantly against a backward, close-minded establishment. Galileo’s Sun-centric astronomy vs. the Catholic Church; John Harrison’s longitude-revealing watch vs. the bigwigs […]
The Pretty Bacterial Dance That May Help Prevent Infections
Imagine looking down through a microscope and seeing a big mass of bacterial cells, writhing in sync, churning in circles. You can almost hear a buzz of activity. The micron-sized organisms migrate across a plate of agar, gobbling up the nutrient-rich media, recalling the frenetic activity of bees in a hive. What you see through […]
The Minds & Algorithms That Make Hollywood Spectacle
We may not have realized it at the time, but during the 1990s, Hollywood movies were infiltrated by a new presence that outshined even the biggest screen stars: Images created on computers became the main draws for movies like Jurassic Park, Toy Story, The Matrix, and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Since then, […]
99 Problems, and a Wild Gecko Space Orgy Is Just One
By the time of this launch of the space shuttle Discovery in 2009, NASA knew well the dangers of lightning to spacecraft. At the launch of Apollo 12, in 1969, they were in the dark.NASA On July 19, Russia launched a satellite designed to study the effects of microgravity on, among other living beings, geckos. […]
Is Our Universe Like Oil & Vinegar or Homogenized Milk?
Is our Universe inhomogeneous, lumpy and uneven on many size scales, like oil droplets in water?via Shutterstock In the earliest moments after the Big Bang, the Universe was a turbulent mess, a high-temperature stew of quantum fluctuations. As with turbulence in water, the fluctuations acted at every level: If you could imagine observing the […]
How Does Flying Feel on the Other Side of the Cockpit Door?
Turbulence in the wing vortex produced by an airplaneNASA Langley Research Center (NASA-LaRC) via Wikipedia In many of the times we encounter turbulence in our lives, it is preceded by a calmly worded warning from above. “Uh, folks, we may hit a few bumps,” a pilot announces over the plane’s PA system—or something to that […]
How Graphic Design Can Make Flying Just a Little Bit Safer
The cause of aviation safety has had a terrible week. An Air Algérie flight crashed yesterday in Mali, reportedly killing all 116 on board. The day before, a TransAsia plane went down on the Taiwanese island of Penghu, leading to the deaths of at least 48 people. And, most notoriously, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was […]
Ingenious: Robert Sapolsky
The primatologist and neurologist talks turbulence—teens, stress, and the information age.
The Beautiful Unpredictability of Coffee, Clouds, and Fire
The International Space Station captured this photo of the Sarychev Volcano erupting on June 12, 2009. Volcanic plumes contain turbulence that extends to a wide range of size scales. NASA “Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the seat belt sign. Please return to your seats and ensure your seat belts are fastened.” So […]