Seven waterspouts align as lava from the Hawaiian volcano Kilauea pours into the ocean in this striking photo from photographer Bruce Omori. Like many waterspouts–and their landbound cousins dust devils–these vortices are driven by variations in temperature and moisture content. Near the ocean surface, air and water vapor heated by the lava create a warm, moist layer beneath cooler, dry air. As the warm air rises, other air is drawn in by the low pressure left behind. Any residual vorticity in the incoming air gets magnified by conservation of angular momentum, like a spinning ice skater pulling her arms in. This creates the vortices, which are made visible by entrained steam and/or moisture condensing from the rising air. (Photo credit: B. Omori, via HPOTD; submitted by jshoer)

Bladeless wind turbine developed

Spanish company Vortex Bladeless has developed bladeless turbines, capable of taking advantage of an aerodynamic effect called vorticity, to capture up to 40 percent of the winds total power. Vorticity creates a pattern of spinning vortices, or whirlpools of wind, which in some cases have been known to cause movement in structures like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

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Bladeless wind turbines generate electricity by shaking, not spinning

Scientists hope to hugely reduce the cost of wind energy by removing the blades from wind farms, instead taking advantage of a special phenomenon to cause the turbines to violently shake.

Vortex, a startup from Spain, has developed the tall sticks known as Bladeless — white poles jutting out of the ground, that are built so that they can oscillate. They do so as a result of the way that the wind is whipped up around them, using a phenomenon that architects avoid happening to buildings and encouraging it so that the sticks shake.

They do so using vortices, which is where the company gets its name from. The bladeless turbines use special magnets to ensure that the turbines are optimised to shake the most they can, whatever speed the wind is travelling at.

As the sticks vibrate, that movement is converted into electricity by an alternator.

Reader unquietcode asks:

I saw this post recently and it made me wonder what’s going on. If you look in the upper right of the frame as the camera submerges, you can see a little vortex of water whirring about. Even with the awesome power of the wave rolling forward a little tornado of water seems able to stably form. Any idea what causes this phenomenon?

This awesome clip was taken from John John Florence’s “& Again” surf video. What you’re seeing is the vortex motion of a plunging breaking wave. As ocean waves approach the shore, the water depth decreases, which amplifies the wave’s height. When the wave reaches a critical height, it breaks and begins to lose its energy to turbulence. There are multiple kinds of breaking waves, but plungers are the classic surfer’s wave. These waves become steep enough that the top of the wave  overturns and plunges into the water ahead of the wave. This generates the vortex-like tube you see in the animation. Such waves can produce complicated three-dimensional vortex structures like those seen in this video by Clark Little. Any initial variation in the main vortex gets stretched as the wave rolls on, and this spins up and strengthens the rib vortices seen wrapped around the primary vortex. (Source video: B. Kueny and J. Florence)

New Wind Turbine Generates Electricity Without Rotating Blades

This new wind turbine wobbles elegantly in the wind, generating electricity without rotating blades. “It looks like asparagus,” says David Suriol, one of the founders.

A Spanish company called Vortex Bladeless has produced a wind turbine that takes advantage of the vortices produced when wind moves around an obstacle.

If you put any object in the path of the wind, it will create an undulating vortex behind the barrier. This is a problem that has plagued engineers for years: bridges have fallen due to wind eddies.

Vortex Bladeless engineers have designed their turbine to take advantage of this vortex. The thin, cone-shaped turbine is made of carbon fiber and fiberglass with the motor at the bottom instead of the top (like traditional turbines) to improve sturdiness. The design ensures that the wind’s vortex spins synchronously along the entire cone. “The swirls have to work together to achieve good performance,” Villarreal explains. There is also a ring of magnets at the base of the cone that give the rotations a boost regardless of wind speed.

There are many advantages to the new Vortex design: It is cheaper to manufacture than current pinwheel turbines. Maintenance prices are also lower because there is no friction from mechanically moving parts (e.g., the blades on a traditional turbine), which reduces the need for oiling and bolt replacement. It is completely silent and birds can fly around them safely (though it has yet to be announced whether the turbine is nest-proof.)

New wind technology, however, always receives some skepticism: Most wind-harvesting technologies only work at a fraction of their most efficient output. Wind turbines need smooth, laminar airflow; the kind you only really find at about 100 meters (328 feet) above the ground. The wind that we know and love to hate is turbulent, messy and generally no good for wind turbines. Vortex claims that their wind turbine can adapt to any wind speed with the assistance of the magnets in its core; however, the details on how this actually works are frustratingly hard to come by.

The Vortex device has been computationally modeled, tested in a wind tunnel, and there are prototypes out in the open, but details on tests carried out by the company or independent labs are currently scant. It is also not the first wind turbine to take advantage of oscillatory technology. Researchers in the ’80s found that the swirling oscillations were too random for reliable power generation, and the speed of oscillations put a lot of stress on the structure and caused it to break down unexpectedly.

The idea hasn’t been terribly successful in the past, so it will be interesting to see how Vortex Bladeless tackles these challenges. While this invention might not revolutionize Earth’s renewable power sources just yet, it’s still exciting to see what designers are creating.


Literature is full of descriptions of monstrous whirlpools like Charybdis, which threatens Homer’s Odysseus. While it’s not unusual to see a small free vortex in bodies of water, most people would chalk boat-swallowing maelstroms up to literary device. But it turns out that, while there may not be permanent Hollywood-style whirlpools, there are several places in the world where the local tides, currents, and topology combine to produce turbulence, dangerously vortical waters, and even standing vortices on a regular basis. 

One example is the Corryvreckan, between the islands of Jura and Scarba off Scotland. In this narrow strait, Atlantic currents are funneled down a deep hole and then thrust upward by a pinnacle of rock that rises some 170 m to only 30 m below the surface. The swift waters and unusual topology produce strong turbulence near the surface and whirlpools pop up throughout the strait. Other “permanent” maelstroms, such as those in Norway and Japan, arise from tidal interactions with similar structures rising from the sea floor.

For more, check out this Smithsonian article, Gjevik et al., Moe et al., and the videos linked above! (Photo credits: Manipula, Tokushima Gov’t, Wikimedia, and W. Baxter; requested by @kb8s)

Gatsby è il prototipo di uno innamorato della persona sbagliata. Come tutti noi: corriamo e tendiamo le mani verso una porta chiusa con la speranza di poterla aprire ma ci inganniamo.
Gatsby ha donato ogni respiro all'amore, ha donato un ideale troppo indissolubile per il fragile oscillare del tempo.
Siamo poi così diversi? No. Siamo costantemente immersi nell'oscuro e profondo oceano dei nostri pensieri.
Noi seguiamo gli inverosimili ideali del gentiluomo, impazziamo per amore, moriamo per amore, un amore non corrisposto, un amore spinto alla deriva, lontano dal tortuoso vortice che ci sta inghiottendo.
Hey Gatsby avevi ragione…
Il passato può ritornare.
E la nostra generazione ne è la prova.


The world’s most powerful artificial tornado is part of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Though popular enough with visitors that the staff will bring out smoke generators to make it visible, the tornado was not built as an attraction - It’s actually part of the building’s fire protection system. The modern open design of the museum meant that conventional smoke removal systems were inadequate. Instead vorticity is generated in the central lobby with 144 wall-mounted jets. The angular velocity created by the jets is strongest at the middle, in the vortex core, due to conservation of angular momentum - exactly the way a spinning ice skater speeds up by pulling his arms in. The core of the vortex is a low pressure area, which draws outside air toward it - this is how the tornado pulls in smoke when there is a fire. The fan on the ceiling provides the pressure draw necessary for the smoke to be pulled up and out of the building at a supposed rate of 4 tons per minute. See the tornado in action here. (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Passion; submitted by Ivan)

A drop of fluorescent dye falling into quiescent water forms fantastical structures that are a mixture of vorticity, turbulence, and molecular diffusion. The horseshoe-like shape near the front of the drop is a typical shape for two fluids strained by moving past one another. The main section of the drop billows outward like a parachute, but the turbulence of its wake stretches the dye into fine threads that quickly disperse in the water. (Photo credit: D. Quinn et al.)


Seven is an auspicious number - and, seeing as a reckoning will not be postponed, it seems nice that I should post my seven designs for Sunless Sea locations that I’ve managed to eke out so far.  Gosh, look at how far I’ve come!

In order, we have: the Chapel of Lights, Saviour’s Rocks, Blue Prophets, Rainer and Velten’s vortices, The Avid Horizon, The Fathomking’s Court, and the Dawn Machine.  

Fate l’amore fino a perdere il respiro, con il cuore che vi batte tra i denti. Fate l’amore, unite i corpi e legate le anime, fatele vibrare insieme come corde di una chitarra, fatevi trasportare da questa musica in un infinito vortice di libertà. Non sono volgari i corpi che si amano, volgari sono i pregiudizi dell’invidia, le voci mortali dominate da una morale illogica. Quindi fate l’amore, con l’anima, il corpo, gli occhi, amatevi fin che la carne non si consuma, fin che ha un senso, e anche oltre.

Observations show Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is shrinking, most recently at a rate of more than 900 km a year. As it gets smaller, the storm is also changing shape and becoming more circular. Scientists don’t yet have an explanation for the shrinkage or its recent acceleration, but this is unsurprising given the rich complexity of the storm. For example, the source of the Red Spot’s longevity–it may be more than 300 years old–is still an open topic of research. Some of the most recent observations show smaller eddies feeding into the storm; the current hypothesis is that these eddies may be increasing the Red Spot’s dissipation and accelerating its breakup. (Photo credit: NASA/ESA; h/t to io9)


Wing Vortex Research – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMvvVbQcCBo