Gallery: Dreamy Images Reveal Beauty in Physics

Binary Droplet

Binary droplet collision

(Image credit: Xiaodong Chen and Vigor Yang (School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA))

A head-on collision between two water droplets just twice the thickness of a human hair results in this flattened pancake of fluid. Simulating such collisions allows researchers to understand how this sheet of liquid expands and contracts and how droplets splinter off its rim. [Read full story]

Cilia Flow

Coral polyps fluid dynamics

(Image credit: Stocker Group, Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT)

Coral polyps sport tiny hair-like appendages called cilia, which they beat rhythmically in the water. Researcher used fluorescent beads to track the flow of water around coral polyps, finding mixing that is perpendicular to the water surface. This fluid motion may enhance photosynthesis and protect the coral from nasty microbes. [Read full story]

Wet Clapping

Water clapping fluid dynamics

(Image credit: B. Chang, B. Slama and S. Jung at Virginia Tech)

Researchers inspired by watching children clap wet hands studied the dynamics of water "clapped" between two solid plates. They found that water flow outwards in a sheet with a thick rim, seen here. In another instant, the rim will begin to dissolve into fast-moving droplets. [Read full story]

Vortices Interact

Vortices in liquid

(Image credit: D.J. Asselin & C.H.K. Williamson (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY))

Liquid vortices (red) interact with a solid wall to create secondary vortices (green). This research, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, has practical applications for designing vehicles that move through air and water.[Read full story]

Plethora of Vortices

Vortices in liquid

(Image credit: C. Morton and S. Yarusevych (University of Waterloo, Canada))

This whirlwind of vortices is created by water moving around a cylinder. [Read full story]

Cylinder Vortices

Vortices in liquid

(Image credit: C. Morton and S. Yarusevych (University of Waterloo, Canada))

Water moving around a cylinder forms complex vortex patterns. [Read full story]

Beautiful Bubble

Bubble in water

(Image credit: T.T. Lim & C.T. Toh (National University of Singapore); M. Cheng & J. Lou (Institute of High Performance Computing, Singapore))

A burst of air in water creates this single bubble, photographed in multiple exposures as it rises to the top of the tank. Pressure differences between the top and bottom of the bubble transform it into a donut shape. [Read full story]

Starfish Water

Star-shaped wave

(Image credit: Jean Rajchenbach, Alphonse Leroux, and Didier Clamond (CNRS and Université de Nice, France))

This starfish-shaped wave was created by vertically vibrating liquid in a container. The wave pattern alternates between looking like a star and looking like a pentagon. [Read full story]

Coiling Honey

Liquid rope coiling fluid dynamics

(Image credit: AAPT High School Physics Photo Contest, Kyle James Lueptow, 'Coiling Instability in Honey Poured into Water)

A straight stream of honey coils as it his the surface of liquid water in a crystal goblet. This phenomenon is called "liquid rope coiling." [Read full story]

Water Feature

Water feature

(Image credit: J. Sweet, A. Avila, and S. Shakerin (University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA))

A specialized inlet and tube creates this disc of water, which would make a lovely addition to a garden fountain, researchers say. [Read full story]

Rinsing Flow

laminer and turbulent flow

(Image credit: Travis Walker, Theresa Hsu, Gerald Fuller, Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University)

A beautiful blue-and-white mix of water and an elastic solution made of polyacrylamide, which is used in the process of making soft contact lenses. The image shows the water and the blue-dyed polyacrylamide undergoing a "hydraulic jump," which occurs when a fluid changes from a fast, parallel (or laminar) flow and moves into a slow, turbulent flow. [Read full story]

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.