Fluid turbulence: How nature mixes things up

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 – 3:15pm – 4:30pm
Reiss 502
Robert Ecke
Director, Center for Nonlinear Studies, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Ash disperses from a volcano; fuel and air mix in an internal combustion cylinder; airline passengers are bumped and sometimes bruised by clear air turbulence; heat is redistributed over the earth by the motions of winds in the atmosphere. At the core of all of these phenomena is the ubiquitous process known as “turbulence.” First described and named “la turbolenza” by Leonardo da Vinci in 1507, turbulence has posed tremendous challenges to scientists for over 100 years because of the strongly nonlinear nature of the equations governing fluid flow. Practical progress has been demanded by the many applications of turbulence from the drag on cars and airplanes to predicting the weather. Nevertheless, the fundamental problem of fluid turbulence – a quintessential example of a strongly-interacting classical nonlinear field theory – remains an interesting and exciting one to this day. I will describe our current understanding of fluid turbulence and some recent experimental and theoretical results that justify the expectation that real progress will be made in the coming years on understanding this important fundamental problem in classical physics.

Host: David Egolf