2023 Best of the Web – Rachel Marbaker

series of images using smoke to visualize how nearby air interacts with the vortex wake of a cylinder in flow

2023 Best of the Web – Rachel Marbaker

Best of the Web: Kármán Vortex visualized with liquid kerosene smoke in airflow. From Zdravkovich 1969.

Art: The stark contrast between the black background and white smoke and the photographic series format minimalistically  convey motion. Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 photographic series of a galloping horse (The Horse in Motion) similarly uses stills to capture commonplace-but-fleeting movement.

Science:  The series shows that the relative interaction between the smoke stream and the wake vortices increases as the smoke source is moved from above to below the cylinder. The authors note that in figure 3b, smoke entering the stream on upper side of the cylinder, slips between the wake vortices and crosses to the other side of the wake. Figure 3f is the corresponding image of flow for the stream below the cylinder, so that superimposed, the two images demonstrate that air crosses the vortex street downstream of the cylinder disrupting the flow.

“Mass transfer across the Kármán vortex street” is Figure 3 in “Smoke observations of the formation of a Kármán vortex street” by M.M. Zdravkovich, published in Journal of Fluid Mechanics on 10 July 1969, vol. 37, part 3, pp.491-496. Accessed via https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-fluid-mechanics/article/smoke-observations-of-the-formation-of-a-karman-vortex-street/C9BFB26B8A755EAFFFA6ACC3C91800FB)

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Cameron Sprenger
    Sep 11, 2023 12:40

    Third place.
    It is so cool to see the development of the vorticities downstream of the cylinder, as well at the affect the location of the stream has relative to the cylinder. Seeing this type of flow is really cool because in nature there typically isn’t the controlled environment for these to form or at least visualize.

  • Sam Lippincott
    Sep 10, 2023 11:49

    Second Prize

    Very simple yet very nice to look at. This also reminds me of the vortex patters created by placing feathers in wind tunnels which create similar but fascinating visuals nonetheless. It’s also amazing how you can see the vortex evolve between iterations

  • Nicole Nageli
    Sep 8, 2023 06:07

    Second Prize
    I love how you explained the art and science thoroughly in your post, Rachel! As you said, this image is so minimalistic and aesthetically pleasing, and the science behind it is fascinating! It’s also cool that you included a bit of history in your post. I feel that your post demonstrates really well the intersection of art and science.


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