Levich Institute Seminar Announcement, 09/28/2004

Tuesday, 09/28/2004
2:00 PM
Steinman Hall, Room #312
(Chemical Engineering Conference Room)

Professor Harry Swinney
University of Texas at Austin
Department of Physics

"Fractal Growth in Thin Sheets, Leaves, and Viscous Fingers"

(Please note this seminar is co-sponsored by the Physics Department, City College of CUNY)


Buckling occurs in plants, the earth's crust, and human skin. Our studies of the wavy edges of torn thin plastic sheets and some leaves reveal marked geometrical similarities. We have also investigated the fractal patterns formed by the injection of air into oil contained in a thin layer contained between two cylindrical glass plates. The resultant radially grown patterns are similar to those formed in dielectric breakdown, flame fronts, and the growth of bacterial colonies, but it remains to be determined if these different patterns have the same geometric properties, and to what degree these patterns are described by the Diffusion Limited Aggregation (DLA) model.


  • Assistant Professor, New York University, 1971-73
  • Associate Professor/Professor; City College of CUNY, 1973-78
  • Professor, University of Texas at Austin, 1978-present


My students, postdocs, and I study instabilities, chaos, pattern formation, and turbulence in systems driven away from equilibrium by imposition of gradients. We search for understanding of dynamical behavior that is similar in diverse systems. Systems examined in the past three decades include flow between concentric rotating cylinders (the "Couette-Taylor" system); chaos and strange attractors in oscillating chemical reactions; a laboratory model of Jupiter's Great Red Spot; a laboratory model of the atmospheric "blocking" phenomenon; patterns and turbulence in buoyancy driven convection and in surface-tension-driven ("Marangoni") convection; growth of metallic fractal clusters in electrodeposition; chemical reaction-diffusion patterns; spatial patterns and shock waves in oscillating granular media (sand, metal balls); and scaling and transport in rapidly rotating oceanic and atmospheric type flows.