Better Combustion Through Plasma November 26, 2013 – Mix together air, fuel, and heat, and you get combustion, the chemical reaction that powers most engines in planes, trains, and automobiles. And if you throw in some ionized gas (plasma), it turns out, you can sustain combustion even in conditions that would otherwise snuff out the reaction: at low air pressure, in high winds, or when there's low fuel. Researchers at The Ohio State University are exploring how plasma-assisted combustion can potentially give an efficiency boost to high-performance aircraft, helping them fly higher, faster and longer.
Flexible, Stretchable Fire-Ant Rafts November 26, 2013 – What do Jell-O, toothpaste, and floating fire-ant rafts have in common? All are so-called “viscoelastic” materials, meaning that they can both resist flow under stress, like honey, and they can bounce back to their original shape when stretched or compressed, like rubber bands. As such, the materials neither behave exactly as solids or exactly as fluids, but as something in between. Researchers at Georgia Tech have found the rafts actively reorganize their structure, a feat that allows them to more effectively cushion themselves against applied forces, such as the battering of raindrops or the surges of waves.
The Mushrooms, My Friend, are Blowing in the Wind… November 25, 2013 – Plants use a variety of methods to spread their seeds, including gravity, forceful ejection, and wind, water and animal dispersion. But what of the mushroom, whose spores also need to be strewn far and wide to ensure their propagation? Researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), believe they have found the answer: they make their own wind.
New, Flying Jellyfish-like Machine November 24, 2013 – Up, up in the sky: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a . . . jellyfish? That's what researchers have built – a small vehicle whose flying motion resembles the movements of those boneless, pulsating, water-dwelling creatures. The work demonstrates a new method of flight that could transport miniaturized future robots for surveillance, search-and-rescue, and monitoring of the atmosphere and traffic.
The Physics of Beer Tapping November 24, 2013 - An old, hilarious if somewhat juvenile party trick involves covertly tapping the top of someone's newly opened beer bottle and then standing back as the suds foam out onto the floor. Now researchers from Carlos III University in Madrid, Spain and Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Institut Jean le Rond d'Alembert, France, have produced new insight into the science behind foaming beer bottles by exploring the phenomenon of cavitation.
Great Lakes Waterfowl Die-Offs: Finding the Source November 24, 2013 – A deadly menace stalks the loons, gulls, and other water birds of the Great Lakes region: Type E botulism, a neuromuscular disease caused when birds eat fish infected with toxin-producing bacteria. Engineers from Florida Atlantic University have teamed with the U.S. Geological Survey to help develop a novel way of tracking waterfowl carcasses to determine the source of lethal outbreaks that infect fish eaten by waterbirds.
The Secrets of Owls’ Near Noiseless Wings November 24, 2013 – Many owl species have developed specialized plumage to effectively eliminate the aerodynamic noise from their wings – allowing them to hunt and capture their prey in silence. A research group from Lehigh University is working to solve the mystery of exactly how owls achieve this acoustic stealth – work that may one day help bring “silent owl technology” to the design of aircraft, wind turbines, and submarines.
A Question for Jupiter November 14, 2013 – Jupiter's Great Red Spot is one of the solar system's most mysterious landmarks. Based on what scientists understand about fluid dynamics, this massive storm – which is big enough to engulf the Earth two or three times over – should have disappeared centuries ago. Yet it remains. Now researchers from Harvard University and UC Berkeley think they can explain why.
Penguin-Inspired Propulsion System November 14, 2013 – Leveraging penguins’ ability to “rocket” underwater, researchers from the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have created a new propulsion technology that uses a novel spherical joint mechanism, which give high maneuverability and improved hydrodynamic efficiency.
The Tao of Pee November 7, 2013 – Two teams of researchers reveal new insight into the physics of urination: in one researchers from Georgia Tech filmed the habits of 16 animals of varying sizes – five mice, five rats, one dog, two goats, two cows, and one elephant. In the other, BYU researchers created an artificial male urethra on a 3D printer and used high-speed cameras to visualize flow striking a solid surface representing a porcelain wall. The respective studies could help in the design of scalable hydrodynamic systems and better urinals.