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It is Not That Random

January 26, 2014
File:VanGogh-starry night ballance1.jpg

Are you familiar with the picture? It is one of Van Gogh’ masterpieces, The Starry Night. I’d like to highlight the swirling cloud in his painting. The cloud seems to be formed by completely random set of lines, right? Now, if I say that I could generate a similar image to that created by Van Gogh’  brush by means of only an equation, will you believe me?

It has been the nature of human being to be curious about the littlest thing that intrigues their minds. People made sets of equations in order to explain what is happening in the universe, in order to see the pattern. Most of human beings like pattern, in other words, most of us like routine. But, let’s not get into that in this article. Here, I’d like to show you one of the most amazing things that I’ve ever known in my life.
The names are Clude Louis Marle Henri Navier and Sir George Gabriel Stokes. Both put a large foundation stone in the field of fluid mechanics. They formulated an equation, which later is called as Navier-Stokes equation, those equation can predict behavior of most of the flows existing in this planet. Do you see the relation between Navier-Stokes equation and Van Gogh’ painting now? Right! You can reproduce Van Gogh’ swirling cloud by Navier-Stokes equation using the right initial and(/or) boundary conditions.
Reynolds performed an experiment to observe flow phenomena by injecting dye streak into a fully developed fluid flow. He found that the nature of streak-line is dependent with fluid velocity. When the fluid is moving slowest, the streak-line is well defined. This situation is called laminar flow. When the fluid is moving fast enough, irregular streak-line forms. This is called turbulent flow. And as usual, the region between them is called transitional flow. Van Gogh’ swirling cloud seems random, but, it can be predicted and many people are currently doing research on the field nowadays. That kind of flow is called turbulent flow. Simply put, turbulent flows mean “rough” mixing flow. The first experiment ever made regarding turbulent flow was done by Osborne Reynolds. Yep, it’s the person who invented Reynolds Number.
p.s. Van Gogh’ ability to create something that’s in agreement with natural phenomena is also interesting. You may find many theories regarding this, but I don’t know which one is the fact.It amazes me how people found a pattern behind something that seems to be a total randomness. Take a look at your surrounding, can you point out which flow is which? It is not that random after all, right?

(Published in Newton’s Fountain, edited.)
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