cultivate culture


pattern formation in receding waves?
May 10, 2008, 11:26 pm
Filed under: physics

While on the western shores of the island of Chiloe in southern Chile, I came across some patterns in the receding waves. As an aspiring physicist, I immediately starting creating a toy model:

In general terms, the patten is a result of water flowing down a shallow and almost featureless incline made of granular matter. As water pulls back (gaining speed), the minuscule, yet inevitable deviations from the flat surface of the sand grow and organize into small humps (perhaps analogous to the washboard road effect, what do you think, Stephen?). The flow of water has to move over the humps in such a way that it makes them visible. Sometimes, a sort of smooth honeycomb cell structure emerges, at other times, the humps are long disconnected strands, more or less perpendicular to the flow. Then another waves comes in and the process starts all over again…

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