Vortex Rings in Nature and Your Physics Classroom!

The video illustrates Vortex Rings being formed by various sources including dolphins and volcanoes. You'll notice in the video that the Vortex Rings are quite stable until they slow down and then at some critical speed, the core enlarges very suddenly causing the vortex to breakdown. Dolphins make, watch and chase them, even using their flippers to stop them rising in what appear to be games similar to those we humans play with soap bubbles. Watch Mt. Etna emit gigantic ring-shaped clouds of steam and gas up to 200 m in diameter that can fly up to 1000 m high, lasting more than 10 minutes. Your students will realize that humans aren't the only ones who love to make and watch Vortex Rings, one of the coolest phenomena in nature!



Resources:

Do more with vortex rings right in your classroom, check out these great links:

BBC News article: Etna hoops it up

The Physics Teacher – Smoke Ring Physics vol. 49, November 2011.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Dwight "Buzz" Putnam for his assistance in writing this Cool Stuff. Buzz is a 25-year veteran physics teacher at Whitesboro High School, New York Science Teacher of the Year and host of the Regents Physics Answers television show on PBS. You can also find him refereeing high school basketball games as well as presenting at the NSTA national conferences.

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Collin Wassilak

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