March 11th, 2011 - Nautical Night at the MIT Museum
PAOC staff (Lodovica Illari and John Marshall) and graduate students (Morgan O'Neill, Alli Wing and Mike Byrne) took part in Nautical Night at the MIT Museum. The event was held to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the MIT Nautical Association and featured underwater robots from the MIT Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Lab, special items from the museum's Hart Nautical Collection, along with three "Weather in a Tank" experiments conducted by the PAOC group. To begin, the audience were treated to a dye-stirring experiment using the rotating tank which demonstrated the "stiffness" of fluid columns in rotating systems. Baroclinic instabilities, similar to mid-latitude weather systems, were then generated using a tank with a cold center ("pole") and warm perimeter ("equator"). The eagerly anticipated finale featured fans on the rotating tank driving an Ekman transport which caused the creation of a "garbage patch" the middle of the tank (something which has actually been found in the Pacific ocean) - opinion was divided on whether or not the ocean circulation was having a positive influence on the environment by sweeping all the garbage into one huge pile! Great fun was had by all involved, with visitors clearly fascinated by the sometimes non-intuitive effects of rotation on the dynamics of fluids - Michael Byrne.