Thursday, May 1, 2014

The art and physics of falling fluid

Pouring layers of paint, of different colors, produces “the most magical fantasies and forms that the human mind can imagine,” wrote Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros.

It turns out that Siqueiros and Jackson Pollock, two iconic artists of Abstract Expressionism, were also experimentalists of fluid mechanics.

“Physical analysis illuminates the ways that both artists used a natural effect – fluids falling under gravity – to produce their works,” writes Emory physicist Sidney Perkowitz, in a recent issue of Physics World.

The video above demonstrates that the patterns produced by Siqueiros, who described his technique as “accidental painting,” result from a Rayleigh-Taylor instability of a viscous gravity current.

You can read Perkowitz’s article in the April issue of Physics World.

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