Monday, 21 May 2012

Why are Japanese drinking wine in space?

I am not sure if they are actually drinking the wine. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is bringing wine and other substances to space to look into understanding the Marangoni effect. Merangoni convection are the tears on a glass of wine. It arises from the surface-tension driven flow from the different properties of water and alcohol in wine. The heat and mass move differently because of the different properties. JAXA is probably not trying to make better wines.

Rather JAXA is interested in the Maragoni effect because it negatively affects the quality of crystal growth for making semiconductors, optical materials and biotechnology materials as explained by Satoshi Matsumoto the science coordinator from JAXA. 'Marangoni convection not only expands our knowledge of fluid behavior, but also has great significance for production of semiconductor materials and equipment development for both space and ground use." The studies will be completed in 2015 will deepen the understanding of the surface-tension-driven flow in microgravity.

How do they do this? They are using two discs and understanding how a silicone oil flows between the two discs. On Earth the bridge would not exist because the convection caused by the Marangoni effect is weaker than the one caused by gravity. On you can see the convection patters with heat waves which are related to the buoyancy. The buoyancy exists in this natural convection process on Earth where the warm air rises and cold air sinks. In space however there is no buoyancy and will eliminate that aspect from the equation to understand convection. The investigators can then heat one of the discs higher than the other to induce the convection. }

See a link with a cool video: 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Solace: A soap film mirror

This is my third installation of mixing art and science after 'The bubble lightbulb' and 'Disambiguation'. There are likely many more. Art explores the science of surface tension in a vastly different ways than scientists think. Solace exploits the effect of gravity on soap films. Soap films are mixture of glycerol and water so they have their properties of surface tension, viscosity and light refraction differ than just regular water.  With Solace the Dutch artist Nicky Assman made a  mechanical arm that dips into soap making a wall.  The result?  A soap mirror so you can see your reflection in a dynamic film for a few seconds before it goes away.  Gravity and other physical factors affect the swirling patterns in the film with different amount of light refraction off the film as water is pulled down more quickly than the rest of the soap.  The arm lowers and the film disappears into oblivion.  Check out her video below.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Disambiguation: Science Explained through Art

I am always having a debate about science vs. art and exploring boundaries with both.  In both they want to be cutting edge.  Both can be viewed by anyone but it is in the eye of the beholder how much one might capture.  For example you might look at an art piece and realize the technique but not understand the overall story that the artist wants to portray.  Or similarly you might see a drop of water on a red background and think surface tension or possibly not.

In the last four months Wikipedia for Surface Tension has changed 80 times.  Why?  Well it was part of an experiment by two photographers who tried to explain years of scientific study in a single photograph.  As a scientist (and a scientist that does not like to remember too much stuff) I applaud their effort.

This explains a little bit more eloquently written in Fast Company 'Disambiguation explains complex scientific principles with single photographs, using Wikipedia as a source. The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Austin artists selected 14 Wikipedia entries on scientific principles, ranging from miscibility to contact angle, and composed a single photograph to demonstrate each concept. They uploaded the final photographs into the original Wiki pages, replacing images they had used for source material. After that, it was up to the community to decide whether the photographs were appropriate.'

Surface tension of a drop on a pink background

See more of Disambiguation here. 

The artists used Wikipedia in the the way it was supposed to be used although I think they upset a couple of hardcore Wikipedia gatekeepers.