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Daniel P. Lathrop
Department of Physics, University of Maryland

October 24, 2005
Foothills Laboratory 2, Room 1001
Lecture 1:30pm

Laboratory models of astrophysical and geophysical turbulence

Turbulence occurs in the Earth's atmosphere and outer core, in the atmospheres of the other planets, and in the convective zones of stars including our sun. We probe aspects of the dynamics of these flows using experiments in liquid sodium, helium, nitrogen, and water (not of course mixed together!). The goal of these several experimental devices is to explore how turbulence interacts with rotation, magnetic fields or both.
As both add some measure of elasticity to the flows, several types of oscillatory behavior are observed in the experiments depending on the force balance involved. Ordering the Coriolis, Lorentz, and inertial forces is key to understanding the complicated states observed. While these experiments are undertaken in part to understand the geodynamo, they have led to a number of different first observations, including the magnetorotational instability, inertial waves in spherical Couette flow and inertial waves in decaying rotating turbulence in cryogenic fluids.