Want to understand the fluid dynamics of the oceans and atmosphere? UCLA's got the video

Feb 02, 2012 By Stuart Wolpert
Filming in the SPIN lab

(PhysOrg.com) -- Oceans and clouds, even the atmosphere itself, are in constant motion and can undergo dramatic fluctuations, like hurricanes, that lead to severe consequences. If you've ever wondered how these enormous systems function, wonder no longer.

Jonathan Aurnou, an associate professor of planetary physics in the UCLA Department of Earth and Space Sciences, and John Cantwell, a UCLA graduate student in Aurnou's laboratory, have developed a project that clearly demonstrates the large-scale fluid dynamics occurring in the oceans and atmosphere by using simplified lab models.

With funding from the National Science Foundation and UCLA's Office of Instructional Development, they devised a number of innovative experiments and then recorded them to create a 30-minute film on these basic fluid motions. The eight-chapter film is believed to be the first comprehensive entry-level video on this topic. 

Aurnou also teaches a UCLA course called "Blue Planet: An introduction to Oceanography," which addresses the large-scale in the oceans and .

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
(One of the experiment videos filmed in Aurnou's lab | For more, visit http://planets.ucla.edu) 

"My feeling is that students don't always get to see the basic components of the incredible fluid phenomena that are taking place around them," Aurnou said. "We can set up lab experiments that demonstrate the basic physics occurring in atmospheres and oceans. My goal was then to make videos of these experiments so my students, and students everywhere, could gain an intuitive sense for the large-scale fluid systems that we live within."

The cinematography and film editing were performed by Jonathan Schwarz, who earned his master's degree from UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT), and Gabriel Noguez, who is working on his master's degree at TFT.

"I was very pleased to find that you can send out a listserv message to UCLA film school students and graduates and get amazing filming expertise for video projects," Aurnou said. "They were eager to work on a science-based film project, and very skilled."

The experiments provide insights into large-scale fluid motions not only on Earth but on other planets as well, Aurnou said.

Aurnou and members of his lab designed and constructed the device on which the experiments are conducted in his UCLA SPIN (Simulated Planetary Interiors) Lab.

Explore further: The unifying framework of symmetry reveals properties of a broad range of physical systems

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NIH teacher resources feature rare diseases and evolution

Nov 03, 2011

Teachers now have an innovative way to help students approach challenging biology questions with two new free curriculum supplements from the National Institutes of Health: Evolution and Medicine,and Rare Diseases ...

Recommended for you

What time is it in the universe?

Aug 29, 2014

Flavor Flav knows what time it is. At least he does for Flavor Flav. Even with all his moving and accelerating, with the planet, the solar system, getting on planes, taking elevators, and perhaps even some ...

Watching the structure of glass under pressure

Aug 28, 2014

Glass has many applications that call for different properties, such as resistance to thermal shock or to chemically harsh environments. Glassmakers commonly use additives such as boron oxide to tweak these ...

Inter-dependent networks stress test

Aug 28, 2014

Energy production systems are good examples of complex systems. Their infrastructure equipment requires ancillary sub-systems structured like a network—including water for cooling, transport to supply fuel, and ICT systems ...

Explainer: How does our sun shine?

Aug 28, 2014

What makes our sun shine has been a mystery for most of human history. Given our sun is a star and stars are suns, explaining the source of the sun's energy would help us understand why stars shine. ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2012
It could bring the insight into dynamic of supernovas, which are modelled in rather silly way by now and the mechanism of jet formation doesn't appear very convincing in hydrodynamic models.
http://www.youtub...YsySCsuk
Apparently, the rotation prohibits the motion of fluid in radial direction. Such motion induces the tensor component of Coriolis force, which consumes the kinetic energy of radial motion.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2012
Thanks to the Earth rotation we don't experience the global circulation of atmosphere, like this one which exists at Venus and which would destroy the terrestrial life. The Coriolis force breaks it into smaller tornadoes, which are temporal and harmless.