Monday, February 4, 2013

The physics of icicles and our lumpy universe

Everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike, but what about icicles? Physicist Stephen Morris built an icicle-making machine in his University of Toronto lab to tackle this question by systematically studying the shape of icicles and how they grow. (See video above). His research is not just fascinating physics. It could also have implications for preventing dangerous ice formations on airplane wings or power lines.

And icicles are just the tip of the problem. The entire universe is not uniform, instead it’s “a kind of foam or lumpy mass,” Morris says.

Morris is in Atlanta this week, where he will be giving talks about pattern formations in nature, going back to the lumps that developed in the primordial soup of early Earth. You can catch him in a public lecture tonight, Feb. 4 at 6 pm at Georgia Tech, and in an Emory physics colloquia tomorrow, Feb. 5 at 2:30 pm.

Physicists crack another piece of the glass puzzle
Crystal-liquid interface made visible for the first time

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