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Can video games be used for cutting edge physics research problems? Specifically, can it help us unlock the mysteries of turbulence: the physics that describe chaotic flow of fluids. You see turbulence as for example cyclones and tornadoes, but also in the way that milk starts swirling around when it's poured into a cup of coffee. Although turbulence is all around us and is of great importance in science and engineering, our theoretical understanding of the concept is still incomplete. Solving the Navier-Stokes equations which describe this flow has been made one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems and is considered the greatest unsolved problem in classical physics. The citizen science game Turbulence lets gamers help explore this problem.
I will discuss how visualizations, simulations, and gamified computational citizen science can be used for turbulence research to help identify important, currently unknown, scaling exponents of local sparseness of the regions of intense vorticity. My research is in the context of turbulent dissipation in 3D viscous incompressible flows modeled by the 3D Navier-Stokes equations. I will summarize the results of the Turbulence game, including the results of the Human Problem Solving elements of the game and the result of the analysis of the scale of sparseness. A key take-away is how these insights indicate that further theoretical efforts to push the rigorous a priori bound beyond the current exponent – and even beyond the critical exponent – in the time intervals leading to a peak of the vorticity maximum, might indeed be feasible. If one can show this exponent is beyond the critical exponent, this would imply that there are no singularities in the 3D Navier-Stokes Equations.
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Københavns Universitet, Niels Bohr Instituttet