Spectacular liquid fractal generated by a submerged spinning top

Elastomer swirling in a tank of glycerine with a spinning top

Bavand Keshavarz

A spinning top submerged in a liquid can make a striking fractal structure.

Fractals are patterns and structures that repeat themselves at smaller scales when zoomed in. Bavand Keshavarz and Michela Geri at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were studying how one liquid breaks up into droplets when it is mixed into another and unexpectedly discovered a new kind of liquid fractal.

Their original experiment consisted of adding liquids to a tank of glycerine in which a spinning top was immersed. Because of the shape of the top, the added liquid and glycerine swirl together in a more complex way …

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