Entrancing Vortices

A vortexis a rapidly whirling spiral of fluid or gas rotating around its own centre. We see vortices around us all the time: from water going down the plug hole to tornadoes and hurricanes.

When trying to explain what causes these fascinating effects, it is best to look at an environment where they appear and consider what is going on.

Let’s look at water swirling down a plug hole. When the stopper is removed, the force of gravity pulls the water down the plug hole. But, at the same time, the air in the pipes below is pushing upwards, trying to escape. This ‘battle at the plug hole’ means that neither air nor water flow easily until a vortex is formed. This is the best way for the water to travel down the plug hole, as the spiralling water can travel down the plug hole, whilst the air can travel through the central ‘tube’ left behind.

 

Vortices are also found in space. Matter spirals inwards to form huge galaxies, much like our own, the Milky Way!

 

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