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Jupiter in a Soap Bubble

Enlarge Image credit: F. Seychelles and H. Kellay MORE IMAGES

Researchers are bubbling over a new trick for whipping up mini-hurricanes that resemble the real kind, such as this sudsy replica of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Scientists at the University of Bordeaux in France used a sophisticated straw--made of a tube of rubber attached to a pipette--to blow half-bubbles up to four inches (10 centimeters) wide on a soapy solution in a beaker. Next, they heated the solution and cooled the bubble on top, triggering single vortices. The tiny twisters meandered randomly like real hurricanes, they reported in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters. Although atmospheric hurricanes come about in a much different way, the team said the effect may minimize the toil and trouble of studying the influence of turbulence on real storms.

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