How Mathematics Uncovered the Dandelion’s Halo

Heriot-Watt University - Online 30th Sep 7.00pm-8.00pm Free
Halo vortex

The equations of fluid mechanics describe how viscous fluids move. When these equations are applied to the flight of the dandelion seed, they give rise to a very peculiar fluid behaviour: a “halo” vortex. So peculiar in fact that such a vortex has never been observed before in nature. So is the halo vortex a quirk of the equations, or is it a quirk of nature?

In this talk, Dr Cathal Cummins will show how equations predict the halo vortex and the implications for the flight of nature’s tiniest fliers.


Dr Cathal Cummins is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Heriot-Watt University. His research focuses on fluid mechanics of swirls, encompassing problems in biology, renewable energy, and beer. His research on fluid mechanics regularly appears in the news (New York Times, BBC, MSNBC): from solving the sinking Guinness bubble paradox, to the mathematics of the spread of covid and the flight of dandelion seeds.


The talk is suitable for adults and youngsters (age 10+) alike.

People who wish to attend must register via Eventbrite:

Ticket holders will receive an email on the day of the event with instructions on how to join the online event, which is kindly hosted by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS).

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