Hurricanes and tornadoes may seem huge, but they’re equivalent to thin flows of fluid at
the base of the atmosphere. So, physicists are finding they can mimic these phenomena with
swarms of electrons confined by magnetic and electrical fields.
In experiments akin to dropping tornadoes into hurricanes, physicists at the University of
California, Berkeley created compact vortices of electrons within more diffuse swirls. The tornado-
like vortices induce the hurricane-like hosts to envelop spots of calm just outside their
borders, Dan Durkin and Joel Fajans report in the Nov. 6 Physical Review Letters. The rim then
“brings a little piece of the calm world inside,” Durkin says.
Ocean eddies and storms on Jupiter—like hurricanes and tornadoes—are fluid flows confined
to a thin layer (SN: 11/18/00, p. 328: Available to subscribers at When storms collide on Jupiter). Although the calm-engulfing action has yet to be
spotted in any of these settings, scientists now have leads to where it might turn up.