A dye-stirring experiment from the "Weather in a Tank" curriculum developed by Lodovica Illari and John Marshall of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In this experiment, water in a spinning tank is allowed to come into solid body rotation. It is then gently stirred by hand and colored dye is injected into the fluid. Beautiful colored dye streaks and interleaving of dye result, as shown in the figure, attesting to the rigitity imparted to the fluid by rotation.
"Weather in a Tank" is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported project where curricula materials that combine atmospheric data and laboratory fluid experiments are being developed for teaching meteorology, oceanography and climate at the undergraduate level.
The project explores how basic principles of rotating fluid dynamics that play a central role in determining the climate of the planet are best conveyed to students, thus teaching them how to move between phenomena in the real world, laboratory abstractions, theory and models. The lab materials and associated curricula being developed could have a wide impact in the teaching of science at many levels in universities and schools, not just in meteorology, oceanography and climate.
To learn more, visit the "Weather in a Tank" website. [Research supported by NSF grant DUE 06-18483.]
(Date of Image: March 2010)
Credit: Photo by John Marshall, MIT