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The following photographs of fluid motion are taken from two books. One is See the

wind blow by Professor F. Brown from University of Notre Dame, published in 1971. He

spent a large part of his professional career developing techniques for visualising flow in

wind tunnels. The other book is An album of fluid motion, first published in 1982 by

Professor Milton Van Dyke, from Stanford University. Both books are copyright but I have

reproduced a small selection of photos here for educational purposes and to encourage you

to read or buy the books (at amazon.com and elsewhere).

Figure 1: Photos showing the difference between laminar and turbulent boundary layers for air

flowing over a curved surface. Laminar flow results in early separation, while at higher air speeds

or over rough surfaces, the boundary layer becomes turbulent and remains attached to the surface

for a longer distance. The flow was made visible using titanium tetrachloride painted on the front

surface. It forms a thick white cloud on contact with humid air. Photo 56, p 91, Album of Fluid

Motion.

Figure 2: The boundary layer on the upper surface of an inclined airfoil separates from the surface

but the boundary layer on the lower surface remains attached. Air is deflected downwards, so the

air exerts an equal and opposite upward force on the airfoil. Photo 34, page 25, Album of Fluid

Motion.

Figure 3: Low speed flow of water past a sphere at Reynolds number R = 118. Water circulates

back to the low pressure region at the rear of the sphere after it separates. Photo 53, page 33,

Album of Fluid Motion.

Figure 4: Flow of water past a sphere at Reynolds number R = 15,000 showing separation of the

flow at the top and bottom of the sphere and a turbulent wake at the rear of the sphere. Photo

56, page 34, Album of Fluid Motion.

Figure 5: Flow past smooth sphere with grit covering part of the lower half, resulting in late

separation at the bottom. Air is deflected upward, resulting in a downward force on the sphere.

This photo captures the effect of the rough and smooth sides of a cricket ball, and even the

roughening effect of raised seams. Page 38, See the wind blow.

Figure 6: Flow past smooth cylinder rotating counterclockwise. Air is deflected upward, resulting

in a downward (positive) Magnus force on the cylinder. The peripheral speed of the cylinder, due

its rotation, is slightly larger than the flow speed of the air. Page 82, See the wind blow.

In Fig. 6, the air speed and cylinder spin are both relatively small and the flow is laminar

on both sides. Near the bottom surface, the cylinder rotates faster than the the air and

drags the boundary air almost all the way to the rear. The top surface rotates in the

opposite direction to the air stream and brings the boundary layer air to rest sooner, due

to viscous forces. Separation occurs sooner on the top surface. The result is a net upward

deflection of the air and a downward or positive Magnus force on the cylinder.

It has been observed in many experiments that a ball (or a cylinder) can deflect in the

wrong direction when it is spinning. In that case, the Magnus force is negative. The

effect is observed when the ball speed or the spin is high enough so that the boundary

layer can become turbulent. In that case, the boundary layer can become turbulent on

one side of the ball and remain laminar on the other side.

At high ball speeds or spins, the upper boundary layer can become turbulent due to the

high relative speed of the air and the surface, resulting in delayed separation. If the lower

boundary layer remains laminar, due to the low relative speed of the air and the surface,

then it separates earlier than the turbulent layer at the top, resulting in a negative Magnus

force. Brown (See the Wind Blow) showed that a negative Magnus force arises at high

speeds for smooth spheres and cylinders if V/U < 0.5 where V = R is the peripheral

speed of the ball or cylinder and U is the ball speed (or the wind speed in a wind tunnel).

A smooth table tennis ball with strong backspin can curve down rather than up if the

higher relative velocity at the bottom of the ball results in a turbulent boundary layer

while the top layer remains laminar.

Alternatively, the boundary layer can be turbulent both at the top and bottom of the ball

at sufficiently high ball speeds. In that case, the separation point moves closer to the front

of the ball as the ball speed increases. A consequence is that the drag coefficient increases

as the ball speed increases above that at which the drag crisis occurs. The drag coefficient

drops suddenly at the drag crisis but increases again at higher ball speeds. If the ball is

spinning then the separation point will be closer to the front of the ball on the side where

the relative speed of the air and the ball is largest. That will result in a positive Magnus

force, as indicated below:

laminar

separation

turbulent separation

Wake

F

F

Wake

turbulent separation

turbulent separation

(b) Positive Magnus force F

at high ball speeds or on rough balls.

at medium ball speeds

Figure 7: The Magnus force on a smooth sphere can be negative at medium ball speeds but is

usually positive at high ball speeds or when balls have rough surfaces. Ball here rotates clockwise.

Figure 8: Flow past a sphere rotating clockwise. Air is deflected upward, resulting in a downward

force on the sphere. The peripheral speed due to the spin is about 1/3 the air speed, resulting in

a negative Magnus force. Page 86, See the wind blow.

Figure 9: Flow past a sphere rotating clockwise. Air is deflected downward, resulting in an upward

force on the sphere.The peripheral speed due to the spin is about twice the air speed, resulting in

a positive Magnus force. Page 84, See the wind blow.

Figure 10: Flow past a golf ball rotating clockwise. Air is deflected downward, resulting in an

upward force on the ball. The Magnus force here is positive. Normally, the ball travels to the

left with backspin into still air. Here, the ball is spinning clockwise about a fixed axis and air

approaches from the left, but the flow pattern is the same. Page 90, See the wind blow.

Figure 11: Flow past a stationary baseball, both seams at the front being located in the top half

of the ball. Separation is delayed by turbulence at the top and is laminar at the bottom so air is

deflected downward, resulting in an upward force on the ball. Page 89, See the wind blow.

Figure 12: Flow at 21 m/s past a baseball spinning counterclockwise at 900 rpm. Air is deflected

upwards, resulting in a downwards force on the ball. Page 88, See the wind blow.

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