Monday, September 24, 2007

Saturn's Hex

Weird rotating hexagon formation on the North Pole of Saturn. Remembering Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which took place around Saturn, it's a bit spooky. But like most things, this also has a "prosaic" explanation - a weird result of fluid dynamics.

In an experiment carried out in Denmark, Thomas Bohr, grandson of Neils Bohr, rotated a fluid in a bucket at varying speeds. At high speeds, the cavity formed in the middle started to take polygonal shapes and at really high speeds, hexagons appeared. It doesn't take much to imagine that something like this must be going on at the north pole of Saturn.

Still, it does remind one of the strangeness, power and beauty of nature and that what comes from simple physical principles transcends the wildest imaginings of fairies, goblins, gods and goddesses.

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