Incredible Natural Phenomenon – Sea Foam

By Anupum Pant

Sea foam is a fairly common occurrence. But usually when sea waves crash and get agitated, the organic matter present in the water forms a foam that is not too much in quantity. It forms and then breaks down before a lot of it gets collected. Normally, only a few thin lines of foam can be seen on the surface of the sea here and there.

However, sometimes when the conditions are totally right, the volume of foam formed can reach incredible levels. This happens when decayed algal matter washes up on the shore and the sea water gets agitated due to breaking waves.

In the past such a blanket of foam 1-3 meters high, formed in the sea, has been washed up on a couple of coastlines, where it has reached the roads and also into people’s homes. In spite of being a fascinating natural phenomenon to experience, this foam is only a trouble for the people wishing to carry on with their daily grind.

Most times it is harmless. But other times when the decayed algal matter has algal toxins, it can produce a foam that can make your skin and eyes irritated. Even mass deaths of sea creatures and birds have been seen in the past.

Staircase to the Moon

By Anupum Pant

Broome is a coastal town in the Kimberley region of west Australia. Every year when all the conditions perfectly fall in place, a very interesting and brilliant natural spectacle occurs. They call it “Staircase to the moon“. It indeed looks like stairs reaching to the moon. Thousands of tourists and the local people gather to watch it happen.

For it to happen the weather, sunset, moonrise and the tide conditions all need to be perfectly right. Before I tell you what happens there, look at a picture of this natural phenomenon. (Or it won’t seem very interesting if I tell you about it first).

Staircase-To-The-Moon

This happens only during the low tide at the coast when the moon is rising. During the low tide, the mudflats get exposed and the rising moon creates this mesmerising reflection on the sand.

The natural phenomenon can also been seen from other coastlines at Onslow, Dampier, Cossack, Point Samson Peninsula, Hearson Cove and Port Hedland.

Watch How 32 Metronomes get Synchronized Automatically!

By Anupum Pant

Background

From biological cells to celestial bodies spontaneous synchronisation is found everywhere in the nature. In simple words, you could call “spontaneous synchronisation” as “a natural self-organisational behaviour” in things. Where, out of a chaos, uniform order starts appearing. If that feels too abstract to understand, read on…

Probably the first human to note this effect was a Dutch physicist, Huygens. Huygens noticed this when he was working on a ship with two pendulum clocks. For very long times, his work of calculating longitudes required him to watch these clocks swinging away their pendulums. He would lie on the bed and watch them go. There was one weird thing he noticed about these pendulum clocks. No matter how the pendulums started swinging, after an hour or so, both the pendulums ended up synchronized! This was a perfect example of uniform order appearing out of no where from an apparent chaos.

The effect amazed scientists for about 350 years. Only then some researchers at Georgia Tech University, were they able to produce a perfect mathematical model that proved it. So, what was happening on the boat? In a similar fashion, would all pendulum clocks in the world get spontaneously synchronized? Let’s look at the following example to find the answer.

Synchronizing metronomes

Think of it this way. You have a couple of metronomes with you – the physical ones, the ones that are based on pendulums. You start each one of them and there is almost no chance that you’d get them perfectly synchronized in the first go. So what do you do to get them synced?

You simply keep all of these metronomes (ticking with the same frequency but different phase relations) on a free-floating table. That gets them synchronized in a matter of minutes. See how the 32 metronomes completely out of sync of each other get synchronized in the following video. Note that they are on a surface that is free-floating.

Adam Milkovich explains the effect very beautifully in the following video:

Another video – Link

Back to Huygens

Now, if we come to see the boat as a free-floating base and the 2 discordant pendulum clocks as metronomes, the segue of their motion into a perfectly synchronized one, makes complete sense.

The only difference is that the boat was a pretty huge free-floating base – something which has a relatively very high mass as compared to the pendulums. And then there is the drag on water; other forces etc.. The pendulums had a very very tiny effect on the boat and in turn, were able to transfer only a teeny bit of energy with every oscillation. So it took longer.

I find it pretty incredible that it even happened in an hour. I think it would have taken a much longer time, given the huge difference in their masses. May be Huygens exaggerated. Or it was a very small boat. Anyway, that is the reason, Huygens’ clocks took about an hour to get synchronized. While the ones we see above are able to do it in a matter of minutes.

Back to the Question

Would all pendulum clocks in the world would get spontaneously synchronized?

Well, I’m not too sure. But this is how I see it:

I think of Earth as a really really really huge free-floating boat. Now, the movement of pendulums on Earth certainly has an effect on the earth. And in turn the other pendulums get affected. And they end up synchronized at some point. But the first effect itself is unimaginably small.

I mean, the Earth is so massive that even if all of the 7 billion people on Earth jumped at the same time, the 6-trillion-trillion-kilogram Earth would move so less. Earth would move about a hundredth of the radius of a single hydrogen atom.

So, pendulums would hardly have any effect. But the effect would certainly be there.

Therefore, I’d say the answer is yes. Yes, all the pendulum clocks on earth would eventually get synchronized. But it would probably take so long, that even earth, leave alone pendulum clocks, would cease existing.

Toy idea: Well, that gives me a great idea for a toy. 5 – 10 pendulums inside a huge pendulum. The inner ones would get beautifully synchronized automatically!

Hit like if you learnt something today.