Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Some Thoughts On Laminar Flow

There is nothing like our ideas existing in the bodies themselves.
John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, p. 87

Laminar flow is one of the physical phenomena, with the most striking demonstrations, that we seem to know the least about. The Oracle of Ottawa has started coming across it over and over lately, while carrying on the "thinking about thinking" project. One of the most powerful demonstrations of it can usually be observed in water fountains that are in public buildings such as shopping malls and airports. There is one in Ottawa, at the Orleans shopping mall, where a laminar flow column of water goes nearly a hundred feet high in a perfect tube of water. Once you see it, you never forget it. Especially when it is surrounded by columns of water in turbulent flow.

Laminar flow(a) - Turbulent flow(b)

How this trick is achieved with water is strikingly easy. They insert a tube of tubes in the pipe of the laminar flow column. The Oracle of Ottawa finds it cosmically ironic that making the water (fluid) flow through what you would think be a constrictive construct would actually make the water flow super smooth, go figure, God does not only play dice, He / She has a morbid sense of humor to top it all off.

Even more weird is that if you look up laminar flow in a university physics text, even the extended version, laminar flow gets all of less than two of the texts one thousand plus pages! Laminar flow occurs in all liquids and in any fluid mechanics text, air is considered a fluid. The Oracle of Ottawa checked in some of the texts that he has on heat engines, and even in the newer texts, the authors admit that not much is known about laminar flow inside a heat engine of any type! The Oracle of Ottawa cannot help but think that there is a huge field of research here. And huge opportunities for major improvements in performance and efficiency with little up front cost. The Oracle of Ottawa may discuss a few these ideas in later posts...

All this weirdness was opened up by two Englishman of the nineteenth century; George Stokes and Osborne Reynolds. Now this Reynolds guy put all the magic of laminar flow in an equation that gives up the value of the Reynolds number. He also wrote a very weird book called The Sub-Mechanics of the Universe. And that is one read that the Oracle of Ottawa will have a look at in PDF format. He had some very out there ideas that would probably be very useful in the "thinking about thinking" project. The Oracle of Ottawa also finds it ironic that Reynolds life overlapped that of Karl Marx... Hmmm. There will be more on this insanely esoteric subject in the near future...


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