Tag Archives: tank experiment

Experiment: Eddy in a jar

Rotating experiments in your kitchen.

Eddies, those large, rotating structures in the ocean, are pretty hard to imagine. Of course, you can see them on many different scales, so you can observe them for example in creeks, as shown below:

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Eddies in the Pinnau river, and their dark “shadows”.

If you can’t really spot them in the image above, check out this post for clues and a movie.

So how can you create eddies to observe their structure?

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Dye spiral caused by an eddy in a jar

I took a large cylindrical jar, filled it with water, stirred, let it settle down a little bit and then injected dye at the surface, radially outward from the center. Because the rotating body of water is slowed down by friction with the jar, the center spins faster than the outer water, and the dye streak gets deformed into a spiral. The sheet stays visible for a very long time, even as it gets wound up tighter and tighter. And you can see the whole eddy wobble a bit (or pulsate might be the more technical term) because I introduced turbulence when I stopped stirring.

Watch the movie below if you want to see more. Or even better: Go play yourself!

P.S.: This text originally appeared on my website as a page. Due to upcoming restructuring of this website, I am reposting it as a blog post. This is the original version last modified on November 27th, 2015.

I might write things differently if I was writing them now, but I still like to keep my blog as archive of my thoughts.

Experiment: Ice cubes melting in fresh water and salt water

Explore how melting of ice cubes floating in water is influenced by the salinity of the water. Important oceanographic concepts like density and density driven currents are visualized and can be discussed on the basis of this experiment.

Context

Audience

This hands-on experiment is suited for many different audiences and can be used to achieve a wealth of different learning goals. Audience ranges from first-graders over undergraduates in physical oceanography to outreach activities with the general public. Depending on the audience, this activity can be embedded in very different contexts: For children, either in their physics teaching to motivate learning about concepts like density, or in the context of learning about the climate system and ocean circulation. For college/university students the activity can either be used in physics teaching to get a different view on density; in oceanography/Earth science to talk about ocean circulation and processes that are important there; to motivate the scientific process; or to practice writing lab reports (you can be sure that students will at some point be tasting the water to make sure they didn’t accidentally swap the salt water and fresh water cup – a great teachable moment for a) Never putting anything in your mouth in a laboratory setting, and b) Always documenting exactly what you are doing because stuff that you think you will definitely remember obviously isn’t remembered that clearly after all). For the general public, this is typically a stand-alone activity.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

It helps if the concept of density is known, but the experiment can also be used to introduce or deepen the understanding of the concept.

How the activity is situated in the course

I use this activity in different ways: a) as a simple in-class experiment that we use to discuss the scientific method, as well as what needs to be noted in lab journals and what makes a good lab report, or density-driven circulation; b) to engage non-majors or the general public in thinking about ocean circulation, what drives ocean currents, … in one-off presentations.

 

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students learn about concepts that are important not only in physical oceanography, but in any physical or Earth science: density in general; density of water in particular, depending on the water’s temperature and salinity; how differences in density can drive currents both in the model and in the world ocean; how different processes acting at the same time can lead to unexpected results; how to model large scale processes in a simple experiment. After finishing the activity, they can formulate testable hypotheses, are able to reason based on density how a flow field will develop and they can compare the situations in the cups to the “real” ocean.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students learn about and practice the use of the scientific method: formulation of hypotheses, testing, evaluating and reformulating.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students practice writing lab reports, making observations, working in groups.

 

Description and Teaching Materials

Materials

(per group of 2-4 students):

  • 1 clear plastic cup filled with room-temperature salt water (35psu or higher, i.e. 7 or more tea spoons of table salt per liter water), marked as salt water (optional)
  • 1 clear plastic cup filled with room-temperature fresh water, marked as fresh water (optional)
  • 2 ice cubes
  • liquid food dye either in drop bottle, with a pipette or with a straw as plunging syphon

Description

Before the experiment is started, students are asked to make a prediction which ice cube will melt faster, the one in salt water or the one in fresh water. Students discuss within their groups and commit to one hypothesis.
Students then place the ice cubes into the cups and start a stop watch/note the time. Students observe one of the ice cube melting faster than the other one. When it becomes obvious that one is indeed melting faster, a drop of food dye can be added on each of the ice cubes to color the melt water. Students take the time until each of the ice cubes has melted completely.

Discussion

The ice cube in the cup containing the fresh water will melt faster, because the (fresh) melt water is colder than the room-temperature fresh water in the cup. Hence its density is higher and it sinks to the bottom of the cup, being replaced by warmer waters at the ice cube. In contrast, the cold and fresh melt water in the salt water cup is less dense than the salt water, hence it forms a layer on top of the salt water and doesn’t induce a circulation like the one in the fresh water cup. The circulation is clearly visible as soon as the food dye is added: While in the freshwater case the whole water column changes color, only a thin meltwater layer on top of the salt water is colored (for clarification, see images in the presentation below)

 

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students usually assume that the ice cube in salt water will melt faster than the one in fresh water, “because salt is used to de-ice streets in winter”. Have students explicitly state their hypothesis (“the one in salt water will melt faster!”), so when they measure the time it takes the ice cubes to melt, they realize that their experiment does not support their hypothesis and start discussing why that is the case. (Elicit the misconception, so it can be confronted and resolved!)

My experience with this experiment is that all groups behave very consistently:

  • At least 80% of your audience will be very sure that the ice cube in salt water will melt faster than the one in fresh water. The other 20% will give the correct hypothesis, but only because they expect a trick question, and they will most likely not be able to come up with an explanation.
  • You can be 100% sure that at least in one group, someone will say “oh wait, which was the salt water again?” which hands you on a plate the opportunity to say “see — this is a great experiment to use when talking about why we need to write good documentations already while we are doing the experiment!”
  • You can also be 100% sure that in that group, someone will taste the water to make sure they know which cup contains the salt water. Which lets you say your “see — perfect experiment to talk about lab safety stuff! Never ever put things in your mouth in a lab!”
  • You can also be sure, that people come up with new experiments they want to try.
    • At EMSEA14, people asked what would happen if the ice cubes were held at the bottom of the beaker.
    • At a workshop on inquiry-based learning, people asked what the dye would do if there was no ice in the cups, just salt water and fresh water. Perfect opportunity to say “try! Then you’ll know! And btw — isn’t this experiment perfect to inspire the spirit of research (or however you would say that in English – “Forschergeist” is what I mean!). This is what you see in the pictures in this blogpost.

It is always a good idea to have plenty of spare ice cubes and salt/fresh water at room temperature ready so people can run the experiment again if they decide to either focus on something they didn’t observe well enough the first time round, or try a modified experiment like the ones described above.

A reviewer of this activity asked how easily students overcome the idea that water in the cup has to have just one temperature. In my experience this is not an issue at all – students keep “pointing” and thereby touching the cups, and in the thin-walled plastic cups I typically use the temperature gradient between “cold” melt water and “warm” salt water is easily felt. The (careful!) touching of the cups can also be explicitly encouraged.

Different ways to use this experiment

This experiment can be used in many different ways depending on the audience you are working with.

  • Demonstration: If you want to show this experiment rather than having students conduct it themselves, using colored ice cubes is the way to go (see experiment here). The dye focuses the observer’s attention on the melt water and makes it much easier to observe the experiment from a distance, on a screen or via a projector. Dying the ice cubes makes understanding much easier, but it also diminishes the feeling of exploration a lot – there is no mystery involved any more. And remember in order for demonstrations to increase the learning outcome, they need to be embedded in a larger didactical setting, including forming of hypotheses before the experiment is run and debriefing afterwards.
  • Structured activity: For an audience with little knowledge about physics, you might want to start with a very structured activity, much like the one described above. Students are handed (non-colored) ice cubes, cups with salt water and fresh water and are asked to make a prediction about which of the ice cubes is going to melt faster. Students test their hypothesis, find the results of the experiment in support with it or not, and we discuss. This is how I usually use this experiment in class (see discussion here).The advantage of using this approach is that students have clear instructions that they can easily follow. Depending on how observant the group is, instructions can be very detailed (“Start the stop watch when you put the ice cubes in the water. Write down the time when the first ice cube has melted completely, and which of the ice cubes it was. Write down the time when the second ice cube has melted completely. …”) or more open (“observe the ice cubes melting”).
  • Problem-solving activity: Depending on your goals with this experiment, you could also consider making it a problem-solving activity: You would hand out the materials and ask the students to design an experiment to figure out which of the cups contains fresh water and which salt water (no tasting, of course!). This is a very nice exercise and students learn a lot from designing the experiment themselves.
  • Open-ended investigation: In this case, students are handed the materials, knowing which cup contains fresh and salt water. But instead of being asked a specific question, they are told to use the materials to learn as much as they can about salt water, fresh water, temperature and density.As with the problem-solving exercise, this is a very time-intensive undertaking that does not seem feasible in the framework we are operating in. Also it is hard to predict what kind of experiments the students will come up with, and if they will learn what you want them to learn. On the other hand, students typically learn much more because they are free to explore and not bound by a specific instruction from you, so maybe give it a try?
  • Problem-based learning: This experiment is also very well suited in a Problem-Based Learning setting, both to work on the experiment itself or, as we did, to have instructors experience how problem-based learning works so they can use it in their own teaching later. Find a suggested case and a description of our experiences with it here.
  • Inquiry-based learning: Similarly as with Problem-Based Learning, this experiment can be used to let future instructors experience the method of inquiry-based learning from a student perspective. For my audience, people teaching in STEM, this is a nice case since it is close enough to their topics so they can easily make the transfer from this case to their own teaching, yet obscure enough that they really are learners in the situation.

Pro tip: If you are not quite sure how well your students will be able to cope with this experiment, prepare ice cubes dyed with food coloring and use them in a demonstration if students need more help seeing what is going on, or even let students work with colored ice cubes right from the start. If ice cubes and hence melt water are dyed right away, it becomes a lot easier to observe and deduct what is happening. Feel free to bring the photos or time lapse movie below as a backup, too!

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Dyed ice cubes about to be put into fresh water (left) and salt water (right)

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When the ice cubes start melting, it becomes very clear that they do so in different manners. In the left cup, the cold meltwater from the ice cube is denser than the lukewarm water in the cup. Hence it sinks to the bottom of the beaker and the water surrounding the ice cube is replaced by warmer water. On the right side, the lukewarm salt water is denser than the cold melt water, hence the cold meltwater floats on top, surrounding the ice cube which therefore melts more slowly than the one in the other cup.

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The ice cube in the fresh water cup (left) is almost completely gone and the water column is fairly mixed with melt water having sunk to the bottom of the beaker. The ice cube in the salt water cup (right) is still a lot bigger and a clear stratification is visible with the dyed meltwater on top of the salt water.

And here a time-lapse movie of the experiment.

Another way to look at the experiment: With a thermal imaging camera!

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Cold (dark purple) ice cubes held by warm (white-ish) fingers over room-temperature (orange) cups with water

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After a while, both cups show very different temperature distributions. The left one is still room temperature(-ish) on top and very cold at the bottom. The other one is very cold on top and warmer below.

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When you look in from the top, you see that in the left cup the ice has completely melted (and the melt water sunk to the bottom), whereas in the right cup there is still ice floating on top.

Assessment

Depending on the audience I use this experiment with, the learning goals are very different. Therefore, no one assessment strategy can be used for all different applications. Below, I am giving examples of what are possible ways to assess specific learning goals:

– Students apply the scientific process correctly: Look at how hypotheses are stated (“salt melts ice” is not a testable hypothesis, “similar-sized ice cubes will melt faster in salt water than in fresh water of the same temperature” is).

– Students are able to determine what kind of density-driven circulation will develop: Suggest modifications to the experiment (e.g. ice cubes are made from salt water, or ice cubes are held at the bottom of the cups while melting) and ask students to predict what the developing circulation will look like.

– Students can make the transfer from the flow field in the cup to the general ocean circulation: Let students compare the situation in the cup with different oceanic regions (the high Arctic, the Nordic Seas, …) and argue for which of those regions displays a similar circulation or what the differences are (in terms of salinity, temperature, and their influence on density).

In general, while students run the experiment, I walk around and listen to discussions or ask questions if students aren’t already discussing. Talking to students it becomes clear very quickly whether they understand the concept or not. Asking them to draw “what is happening in the cup” is a very useful indicator of how much they understand what is going on. If they draw something close to what is shown on slide 28 of the attached slide show, they have grasped the main points.

 

Equipment

Don’t worry, it is totally feasible to bring all the equipment you need with you to run the experiment anywhere you want. This is what we brought to EMSEA14 to run the workshop three times with 40 participants each:

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What we brought to EMSEA14 to run workshops on the ice cubes melting in fresh and salt water experiment

In one big grocery bag:

  • 4 ice cube trays
  • 4 ice cube bags (backup)
  • 2 thermos flasks (to store ice cubes)
  • 1 insulating carrier bag (left)
  • 4 empty 1.5l water bottles to mix & store salt water in
  • 1 tea spoon for measuring salt
  • 500g table salt
  • 21 clear plastic cups for experiments
  • 10 clear plastic cups to hand out ice cubes in
  • 11 straws (as pipettes)
  • 1 flask of food dye
  • 11 little cups with lids to hand out food dye in
  • nerves of steel (not shown :-))

And if you are my friend, you might also get the “ice cube special” — a pink bucket with all you will ever need to run the experiment! Below is what the ice cube experiment kit looks like that I made for Marisa, with labels and everything…

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An “ice cube experiment” kit that I made for a friend. Want one, too?

References and Resources

This activity has been discussed before, for example here:

I have also written about it a lot on my blog, see posts tagged “melting ice cubes experiment“.

P.S.: This text originally appeared on my website as a page. Due to upcoming restructuring of this website, I am reposting it as a blog post. This is the original version last modified on November 4th, 2015.

I might write things differently if I was writing them now, but I still like to keep my blog as archive of my thoughts.

Why we actually need a large tank — similarity requirements of a hydrodynamic model

When talking about oceanographic tank experiments that are designed to show features of the real ocean, many people hope for tiny model oceans in a tank, analogous to the landscapes in model train sets. Except even tinier (and cuter), of course, because the ocean is still pretty big and needs to fit in the tank.

What people hardly ever consider, though, is that purely geometrical downscaling cannot work. Consider, for example, surface tension. Is that an important effect when looking at tides in the North Sea? Probably not. If your North Sea was scaled down to a 1 liter beaker, though, would you be able to see the concave surface? You bet. On the other hand, do you expect to see Meddies when running outflow experiments like this one? And even if you saw double diffusion happening in that experiment, would the scales be on scale to those of the real ocean? Obviously not. So clearly, there is a limit of scalability somewhere, and it is possible to determine where that limit is – with which parameters reality and a model behave similarly.

Similarity is achieved when the model conditions fulfill the three different types of similarity:

Geometrical similarity
Objects are called geometrically similar, if one object can be constructed from the other by uniformly scaling it (either shrinking or enlarging). In case of tank experiments, geometrical similarity has to be met for all parts of the experiment, i.e. the scaling factor from real structures/ships/basins/… to model structures/ships/basins/… has to be the same for all elements involved in a specific experiment. This also holds for other parameters like, for example, the elastic deformation of the model.

Kinematic similarity
Velocities are called similar if x, y and z velocity components in the model have the same ratio to each other as in the real application. This means that streamlines in the model and in the real case must be similar.

Dynamic similarity
If both geometrical similarity and kinematic similarity are given, dynamic similarity is achieved. This means that the ratio between different forces in the model is the same as the ratio between different scales in the real application. Forces that are of importance here are for example gravitational forces, surface forces, elastic forces, viscous forces and inertia forces.

Dimensionless numbers can be used to describe systems and check if the three similarities described above are met. In the case of the experiments we talk about here, the Froude number and the Reynolds number are the most important dimensionless numbers. We will talk about each of those individually in future posts, but in a nutshell:

The Froude number is the ratio between inertia and gravity. If model and real world application have the same Froude number, it is ensured that gravitational forces are correctly scaled.

The Reynolds number is the ratio between inertia and viscous forces. If model and real world application have the same Reynolds number, it is ensured that viscous forces are correctly scaled.

To obtain equality of Froude number and Reynolds number for a model with the scale 1:10, the kinematic viscosity of the fluid used to simulate water in the model has to be 3.5×10-8m2/s, several orders of magnitude less than that of water, which is on the order of 1×10-6m2/s.

There are a couple of other dimensionless numbers that can be relevant in other contexts than the kind of tank experiments we are doing here, like for example the Mach number (Ratio between inertia and elastic fluid forces; in our case not very important because the elasticity of water is very small) or the Weber number (the ration between inertia and surface tension forces). In hydrodynamic modeling in shipbuilding, the inclusion of cavitation is also important: The production and immediate destruction of small bubbles when water is subjected to rapid pressure changes, like for example at the propeller of a ship.

It is often impossible to achieve similarity in the strict sense in a model experiment. The further away from similarity the model is relative to the real worlds, the more difficult model results are to interpret with respect to what can be expected in the real world, and the more caution is needed when similar behavior is assumed despite the conditions for it not being met.

This is however not a problem: Tank experiments are still a great way of gaining insights into the physics of the ocean. One just has to design an experiment specifically for the one process one wants to observe, and keep in mind the limitations of each experimental setup as to not draw conclusions about other processes that might not be adequately represented.

So much for today — we will talk about some of the dimensionless numbers mentioned in this post over the next weeks, but I have tried to come up with good examples and keep the theory to a minimum! :-)

Standing waves in a tank

And really high order ones, too!

On Monday, I showed you a movie on wave generation in Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA)’s wave tank. At the end of that movie, we see that the wave energy is being dissipated by a “beach”. Well, we actually see that some of the energy is reflected in those cute little baby waves. And there is another fraction of the total energy that passes through the beach into another part of the tank. And that’s what I want to show you today.

When I’ve talked about standing waves in a tank before, that always meant the simplest form: Only one node. We have always tried to avoid higher-order modes before, partly because they are a lot more difficult to generate, at least using our method.

But here is what happened in the wave tank:

Isn’t it beautiful?

Stokes drift

When a higher-order effect suddenly becomes important.

During our excursion to Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA), one of the experiments we ran was on Stokes drift. You can already see in that post’s movie that there is some swimming thing moving down the tank in the direction of wave propagation, but of course we had to quantify.

“Experiment” sounds too sophisticated for what actually happened: We dropped a piece of styrofoam in the waves and took the time it took that styrofoam piece to travel two meters. The piece of styrofoam has the advantage over the other swimming thingy that it hardly sinks into the water, and therefore constitutes an almost passive tracer of the waves’ movements.

Now, we all know that Stokes drift is one of those ugly non-linear higher-order things that we ignore as much as possible. It is basically the effect of orbital movements not being closed circles, but rather spirally things. But we have all heard over and over again that the effect can be neglected, and whenever we see a bird bobbing up and down in the waves but also moving horizontally, we quickly rationalize that it must be swimming autonomously, or that there is a current superimposed on the wave field.

So, what do you think, how long will it take for that little styrofoam piece to travel 2 meter’s distance? Of course that depends on the kind of wave field, but give it a rough guess. What’s your estimate?

36 seconds! To travel 2 meters! That doesn’t sound so insignificant now, does it? I’m still trying to figure out why that happened because it seems way too fast. And according to theory it should even have travelled faster than that. So please excuse me while I put on my thinking cap…

Wave tank

Excursion to Hamburg Ship Model Basin.

I recently got to join a class on their excursion to Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA, “Hamburgische Schiffbau-Versuchsanstalt” klingt so viel besser!). Those are amazing facilities and shipbuilding students are always excited to go there and get a glimpse at all the exciting research going on. Since they are working on the cutting edge of naval architecture, unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures of any of the model ships. But that doesn’t make this any less exciting – I still got to take pictures of the waves! :-)

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Waves in the “small” towing tank (80 m in contrast to 300 m) at HSVA. Notice the student group in the back on the left? That’s how long the tank is. And they aren’t even at the far end… 

Below is a movie of waves being generated in the 80 meter long towing tank. Pretty amazing!

Thanks for taking us, Robinson! :-)

Eddies in a jar

Rotating experiments in your kitchen.

Do you know those Saturday mornings when you wake up and just know that you have to do oceanography experiments? I had one of those last weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a rotating table at hand, but luckily most of my experiments work better than the exploding water balloon time-lapse I showed you on Monday, so this is what I did:

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Dye spiral

I took a large cylindrical jar, filled it with water, stirred, let it settle down a little bit and then injected dye at the surface, radially outward from the center. Because the rotating body of water is slowed down by friction with the jar, the center spins faster than the outer water, and the dye streak gets deformed into a spiral. The sheet stays visible for a very long time, even as it gets wound up tighter and tighter. And you can see the whole eddy wobble a bit (or pulsate might be the more technical term) because I introduced turbulence when I stopped stirring. So pretty, the whole experiment. And so satisfying if you need a really quick fix of oceanography on a Saturday morning!

Watch the movie below if you want to see more. Or even better: Go play yourself! It’s easier than making one of those microwave mug cakes and sooo goooooood :-)

Creating a continuous stratification in a tank, using the double bucket filling method

Because I am getting sick of stratifications not working out the way I planned them.

Creating stratifications, especially continuous stratifications, is a pain. Since I wanted a nice stratification for an experiment recently, I finally decided to do a literature search on how the professionals create their stratifications. And the one method that was mentioned over and over again was the double bucket method, which I will present to you today.

Two reservoirs are placed at a higher level than the tank to be filled, and connected with a U-tube which is initially closed with a clamp. Both reservoirs are filled with fresh water. To one of the buckets, salt is added to achieve the highest desired salinity in the stratification we are aiming for. From this bucket, a pump pumps water down into the tank to be filled (or, for the low-tech version: use air pressure and a bubble-free hose to drive water down into the tank as shown in the figure above!); the lower end of the hose rests on a sponge that will float on the water in the tank. When the pump is switched on (or alternatively, the bubble-free hose from the reservoir to the tank opened), the clamp is removed from the U-tube. So for every unit of salt water leaving the salty reservoir through the hose, half a unit of fresh water flows in to keep the water levels in both reservoirs the same height. Thus the salt water is, little by little, mixed with fresh water, so the water flowing out into the tank gets gradually fresher. If all goes well, this results in a continuous salinity stratification.

Things that might go wrong include, but are not limited to,

  • freshwater not mixing well in the saline reservoir, hence the salinity in that reservoir not changing continuously. To avoid that, stir.
  • bubbles in the U-tube (especially if the U-tube is run over the top edges of the reservoirs which is a lot more feasible than drilling holes into the reservoirs) messing up the flow. It is important to make sure there is no air in the tube connecting the two reservoirs!
  • water shooting out of the hose and off the floating sponge to mess up the stratification in the tank. Avoid this by lowering the flow rate if you can adjust your pump, or by floating a larger sponge.

P.S.: For more practical tips for tank experiments, check out the post “water seeks its level” in which I describe how to keep the water level in a tank constant despite having an inflow to the tank.

Simulations of hetonic explosions

Because sometimes it’s easier to control a computer than rotation, salinity, water and dye.

After looking at a non-rotating cylinder collapse the other day, it is time to look at proper hetonic explosions (you know? The experiment on the rotating tank where a denser column of water at the center of the tank is released when the whole tank has reached solid body rotation). In Bergen, we used to show this experiment as a “collapsing column” experiment, the tilting of a frontal surface under rotation. For those cases, all the parameters of the experiment, e.g. the rotation rate, the density contrast, the water height, the width of the cylinder, were set up such as to ensure that one single column would persist in the middle of the tank. At JuniorAkademie, we’ve also run it in other setups, to form dipoles or quadrupoles. For a real hetonic explosion, we would typically go for even more eddies than that.

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Students watching the experiment shown below. We put paper on the outside of the tank because all the feet swiping past are kind of distracting on the movie later, but that is obviously really annoying for live observers. But in our defense – we only did this once for one experiment late one evening, and didn’t expect so many people to be interested in the experiment! Plus they got to watch on the tablet which showed the top-camera’s view via WiFi… ;-)

But if you read through all those posts then, you might remember that I’ve been complaining about how it is really difficult to set up an experiment in such a way that you have total control over the amount of vortices that form. Firstly, because the system is inherently chaotic, but let’s forget about that for a minute. But then because the calculations aren’t that easy for school kids to do, and then even when everything is calculated correctly, water has to be prepared with the correct salinity, the rotation has to be set to the correct period, the cylinder has to be completely centered in the tank, the water level has to be just right and when the cylinder is pulled up, this has to happen with a swift movement as to add as little disturbance as possible. Not an easy task, especially when there is a camera mounted on the tank!

To show us what to expect, Rolf did some model simulations for us. This is what a monopole looks like:

Shown is an isoline in density, separating the dense water below from the lighter water above. Superimposed are the horizontal velocities, so you get a sense of the rotation.

For more advanced experimentalists to recreate, here a dipole:

As for the monopole, you see chimneys that are open on top. That is because the density is higher than the one of the isoline inside the eddy, so you get the impression that you can look inside.

But the picture is different for quadrupoles, here the four eddies (that form when the central column breaks up) do not reach the water surface any more, hence they appear closed in the visualization below.

Btw, the time is of course not measured in weekdays, that’s just a glitch in the visualization that we didn’t fix.

Seeing the simulated situations for the three cases above was quite comforting  after having run this experiment a couple of times. When you run the experiment in a tank, there is always a lot of turbulence that you wish wasn’t there. But it really helps to keep your expectations in check when you see that in the simulation there are always little vortices, trying to break away from the main ones, too, and that that is how it is supposed to be.

So now for an attempted experimental monopole, which turned out as a dipole due to turbulence introduced when removing the cylinder, similarly to what happened to us in the no-rotation collapsing column experiment.

When you watch the side views closely, you can see that the tank appears to be wobbling (which we usually can’t see, because this is the only time we taped a camera to the side of a tank – usually when filming from the side, I film from outside the rotating system, holding the camera in my hand). You see it most clearly when the yellow dye crystals are added – the water is sloshing back and forth, and that is most definitely not how it is supposed to be. Oh, the joys of experimentation! But what is pretty awesome to see there is how the vertical dye streaks get pulled apart into sheets as they get sucked into the vortices. Reminds me of Northern Lights! :-)

Collapsing column

Or: This is what happens to a hetonic explosion experiment without rotation.

I’ve posted a lot while at JuniorAkademie a while back, so it is hard to believe there are still experiments from that time that I haven’t shown you. But I’ve probably only shown you about half the experiments we’ve done, and there are plenty more in the queue to see the light of day on this blog!

Today I want to talk about hetonic explosions (you know? The experiment on the rotating tank where a denser column of water at the center of the tank is released when the whole tank has reached solid body rotation). In Bergen, we used to show this experiment as a “collapsing column” experiment, the tilting of a frontal surface under rotation. For those cases, all the parameters of the experiment, e.g. the rotation rate, the density contrast, the water height, the width of the cylinder, were set up such as to ensure that one single column would persist in the middle of the tank. At JuniorAkademie, we’ve also run it in other setups, to form dipoles or quadrupoles. For a real hetonic explosion, we would typically go for even more eddies than that.

Today I want to show you this experiment under very special conditions: The no rotation case!

For all of you oceanographers out there who know exactly what that experiment will look like, continue reading nevertheless. For all of you non-oceanographers, who don’t know why some oceanographers might be disappointed by this experiment, continue reading, too!

You see, one of the fundamental assumptions we often make when teaching is that what is exciting to us, the instructor, is exciting to the students, too. And the other way round – that experiments that we might find boring will be boring the students, too. But I often find this to be completely wrong!

In case of the hetonic explosion experiment with no rotation, the experts know what will happen. We pull out the cylinder containing the denser water, so the denser water column will collapse and eventually form a layer of denser water underneath the rest of the water. We know that because we are aware of the differences between rotating and non-rotating systems. However, many students are not. And if you don’t have a strong intuition of how the water will behave, i.e. that in this case you will eventually have two layers, rather than a dense column surrounded by lighter water, it is not terribly exciting when you finally do the rotating experiment and – contrary to intuition – the dense water does not end up below the lighter water. So in order to show you in my next post what to be excited about, today I am showing you the normal, non-rotating experiment:

[vimeo 105481230]

But note that the experiment is not nearly as boring as you might have thought! We had put a lot of vaseline at the bottom of the cylinder to prevent the denser water from leaking out, so when the cylinder was pulled up, it gave an impulse to the dense column, which ended up splitting up into a dipole upon hitting the wall of the tank. Still looks pretty cool, doesn’t it? And for this to be a good teaching video, I really should have continued filming until the layers had settled down. In my defense I have to say that we had a second experiment set up at the other rotating table that we wanted to run, so I had to get the cameras over to the other table… And you’ll see those movies in my next post!