Visualizing the Dynamics of the Onset of Turbulence

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Science  10 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5690, pp. 1574-1575
DOI: 10.1126/science.1102824

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The onset of turbulence in fluid flow is observed when, for example, a faucet is opened and the initial regular flow changes into chaotic, irregular flow. Experimental studies of this transition go back to the 19th century, but as Busse explains in his Perspective, theoretical advances have been slower to emerge, and many aspects of the dynamics of the transition remain unknown. He highlights the report by Hof et al., who have observed the predicted dynamical patterns in carefully prepared pipe flow experiments. Although these patterns are unstable, they do occur fleetingly and can be captured with sophisticated visualization techniques.