The KITP Public Lecture Series
Beyond Chaos: The Continuing Enigma of Turbulence
sponsored by Friends of KITP
Turbulence is the last great unsolved problem of classical physics. This seemingly random, unpredictable motion of fluids is pervasive and completely familiar to us all. Turbulence governs the speed at which rivers flow and the air drag as you drive your car; it is the bane of air travelers. Turbulence can kill, by causing arteries and aneurisms to burst. Turbulence makes stars twinkle. Its random but structured patterns have inspired artists and scientists alike. And yet, despite a century of scientific investigation, our understanding is primarily based upon a mere handful of early seminal insights. In this talk, I'll try to explain why this problem is so difficult — much harder than chaos — and what it would mean to solve it. Finally, I'll discuss recent dramatic advances in both experiment and theory that account for the way in which fluids start to become turbulent as their flow speed is increased, making precise mathematical contact with transitional behavior in other fields such as ecology and even neuroscience.