January 20, 2012
Title: Icicles, washboard roads and meandering syrup
Abstract: This talk will describe three recent experiments on emergent patterns in three diverse physical systems. The overall shape and subsequent rippling instability of icicles is an interesting free-boundary growth problem. It has been linked theoretically to similar phenomena in stalactites. We attempted to grow icicles and determine the motion of their ripples. Washboard road is the result of the instability of a flat granular surface under the action of rolling wheels. The rippling of the road, which is a major annoyance to drivers, sets in above a threshold speed and leads to waves which travel down the road. We studied these waves, which have their own interesting dynamics, both in the laboratory and using 2D molecular dynamics simulation. A viscous fluid, like syrup, falling onto a moving belt creates a novel device called a "fluid mechanical sewing machine." The belt breaks the rotational symmetry of the rope-coiling instability, leading to a rich zoo of states as a function of the belt speed and nozzle height.