25 January 2012


From Science Now ~  "Saturn boasts one of the solar system's most geometrical features, a giant hexagon encircling its north pole.  Though not as famous as Jupiter's Great Red Spot, Saturn's Hexagon is equally mysterious.  Now researchers have recreated this formation in the lab using little more than water and a spinning table ~ an important first step, experts say, in finally deciphering this cosmic mystery.

"Saturn's striped appearance comes from jet streams that fly east to west through its atmosphere at different latitudes.  Most jets form circular bands, but the Voyager spacecraft snapped pictures of an enormous hexagonally shaped one (each side rivals Earth's diameter) when it passed over the planet's north pole in 1988."  To learn more about this enormous presence, check out the article and embedded video here.

Speaking of fascinating fluid formations, from New Science TV ~ "If four vortices were let loose in a cup of melted ice cream and chocolate sauce, what would it look like?  In this simulation, mathematical artist Jos Leys illustrates the result by imagining that the two are ideal fluids, meaning that they have no viscosity and slide past each other with no resistance."  Here too, don't miss the video for some breathtaking Art Nouveau effects.

Combining science and art can have unanticipated and pleasing results.  Take wind turbines used to generate electricity ~ most of us have seen these towering, oddly graceful constructs that look like a giant airplane propeller mounted on a tower.  Japanese engineers have improved on the design with the simple addition of a circular rim called a wind lens.  Conventional designs are inherently inefficient.  The lens, or brim diffuser, creates vortices on the downwind side of the rotating blades, dramatically increasing the speed of air flow through the turbine.  More speed yields more power generated from the same moving air mass.  A wind farm of 29 lens turbines is capable of producing the same amount of electricity as a nuclear power plant.  Alternative energy just became an order of magnitude more attainable.  Here is the announcement ~ again, the video provides compelling clarity.  (It occurs to me that this technology has application not only in wind turbines, but also on any propellor-driven device such as an airplane or a ship.  The simply addition of a circular rim can triple the rotational speed, meaning more forward motion using the same amount of fuel.  Win-win.

Finally, on general principle, a shout-out to Design Milk, whose beautiful designs are elegant in their simplicity.  Check out the tabs for architecture, art, home furnishings, interior design, style & fashion, and technology.  Here's an example ~ a spiral staircase unlike any I've seen.

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