Breaking The Surface



The study of numbers has served scientists for as long as they have been able to count on their fingers. But could fluid dynamist John Bush unlock new knowledge about even the simplest of scientific principles? Bush, who will be among the speakers for PINC Sarasota on Dec. 10, spoke with SRQ Daily about his work.

What is there about surface tension that we can still learn today that hasn’t been studied by scientific minds already?  A decade ago, it was discovered that millimetric droplets may levitate and self-propel on the surface of a vibrating fluid bath, supported by the surface tension. These walking droplets exhibit many features of quantum particles, and their dynamics are strongly reminiscent of an early, discarded model of quantum dynamics, Louis de Broglie’s pilot-wave theory. This surface-tension-dominated fluid system may thus yield insight into the supposedly inscrutable microscopic quantum realm.

In what way does a mathematical approach to physical science enhance the discovery process? Mathematics is the most precise language, and has thus intruded into virtually every human enterprise that seeks quantitative understanding and predictive power. In providing a common language that spans all of science and engineering, it allows us to discover connections between seemingly disparate physical systems by way of mathematical analogy.

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