Monday, September 13, 2010

Pollen Grains, Breakfast Cereal, and Galaxies: There's a Connection

"What Holds the World Together? The Cheerios Effect"
Inside Science News Service, Eric Betz, via FOXNews (September 10, 2010)

"Have you ever noticed how the last bits of cereal in the bowl always seem to cling to one another, making it easy to spoon up the remaining stragglers? Physicists have -- and they've given it a name: the 'Cheerios effect.'

"This effect isn't exclusive to breakfast cereals, however. It also reveals itself in the way particles move in the air, pollen floats on the surface of water and galaxies cluster throughout the universe.

" 'If you put Cheerios in a bowl, they aggregate,' said Arshad Kudrolli, a physicist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. 'Or if you look at foam floating on a beer, you get clumps. That's because of surface tension.'..."

It seems that pollen grains, Cheerios, and galaxies clump together in somewhat the same way. The forces involved are different at different scales - but the underlying math may be very similar.

And, worth studying.

Which is where these researchers come in. The Inside Science News Service article isn't too technical, and gives a pretty good overview of what the scientists are studying - and how they're doing it. A funnel is involved, by the way.

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