Rosettes, Engrailed Edges, and Star-Shaped Patterns: Between Rediscovery and Forgetfulness in the Early Accounts of Vibrating Liquid Drops Floating over Hot Surfaces

Sean Steward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Small drops of liquid brought into contact with very hot surfaces float above it as beautiful, slightly flattened spheroids without coming to the boil. An example of film boiling, drops that are sessile can often suddenly and quite unexpectedly start to oscillate forming highly symmetric patterns of surprising pulchritude. The rim of these oscillating drops take on “star-shaped” patterns with many different modes of vibration possible. Still an object of study today, their discovery, early accounts, rediscovery and ensuing controversies over claims of priority, before quietly slipping away from the collective memory of the scientific community to become all but forgotten makes for a compelling story in the early history of film boiling. The episode serves not only as a valuable reminder of the importance the history of science can play in highlighting past achievements that would otherwise remain unknown to the modern practitioner. It also provides an example of how external pressures and personal ambition can often influence the work of a scientist in their pursuit of self-recognition and acclaim amongst their peers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-202
Number of pages11
JournalEndeavour
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science

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