Don’t you hate it when a video is buffering? When a public speaker is stuttering throughout his lecture? Or when a bush in your garden is cut unevenly? These concepts of great irritation all have something in common; the fluidity. In many our daily language we use many words and sayings that involve fluidity, like fluency, flow, curves or smoothness to indicate something is going well. He speaks fluid French, she dances very fluidly, the runner was really in flow, that women has beautiful curves, that process went by quite smoothly. All of these sayings are related with a certain form of fluid. Something is rolling or flowing across time, indicating a nice way of transitioning. Or when someone speaks fluently French, you can hear the words smoothly flowing from this tongue without any stuttering or sudden breaks. Words are almost literally flowing. But you can also have dancers who dance like a fluid with smooth curves and graceful transitions. Or an organizational change that went so smooth, so fluently, that nobody hardly noticed the change. Aspects of fluidity can be found throughout nature, behavior, and within everything we appreciate. In this blog, I will show where we can find fluidity in our lives. Why we love it, and why we seem to neglect the overall concept of it.
Why we love fluidity
When things go smooth, when things flow, we can follow them. When we look at something flowing, we can trace it easily because it doesn’t make that many unexpected changes. There are no sudden drops, no sudden inclinations, just a smooth sine-wave line. There is no roughness that can hurt us, no stumbling, no stuttering, no buffering. If we look at a line, it has a certain interval of change. If a value changes every few seconds (like the orange line in the graph), the change can be quite abruptly. But if it is changing every second (like the blue line), things get smooth. The more precisely you can see the change of the object within that interval, the more you know where that object is. Secondly, objects moving in nature always go smooth and never change abruptly, because nothing can warp from the one place to the other. However, really fast objects seem to change abruptly. The reason that things go smooth is that because the next state of an object depends heavily on the previous state of an object, and when this sate isn’t so far off, the transition looks smooth. Just imagine you need to watch a tiger walking towards you, but your sight is blocked every second. You become less able to see whether the tiger is increasing his speed because you can’t gaze at him constantly. As a result, you have less information about the tiger, increasing your uncertainty of a sudden attack, increasing your fear.
The fluids we tend to forget
Fluency seems so intuitive that we almost seem to forget about it. But it is weird to think about flow and fluids because nothing in our structured world seems like that, besides the soda in your fridge. But we still love fluency. We still want our internet to work fluently, we want High definition TV’s which increase the frame-rates of our movie to get a fluid movie, to increase the sampling rate of the sensors we use, to have smooth edges on our cars and other designs. Nevertheless, the amount of fluency you love changes across people. Also in the architecture of buildings you have different thoughts about this. Some people love smooth curves within architecture, while others love straight lines and cubic forms. But also think about the love of the shape of human bodies, the curves in paintings, or preferences of dance forms. Do you love ballet or the electric boogie? All these forms of fluency give an amount of certainty or surprise. But they give us information in a different way. When we look at movement that goes fluently, it gives you certainty about where the object goes (like the tiger). If we look at shapes that have a certain fluency, it gives information about it’s roughness. It’s ability to hurt you, or whether it fits with you. Waves and patterns of fluids give you information about the source, and how the sources’ waves coheres with your own patterns. Just think about how Timmy in the movie Jurassic Park was able to detect the presence of a T-rex due to the wrinkles in the glass of water, the deep vibrations of his movement were enough to feel the T-rex approaching. Flows and fluids give us a lot of information about the sender. The amplitude, the frequency, the smoothness of a wave give us tons of information about what is coming towards us. Sound, light, vibration, and touch are eventually waves flowing through the air, ground, or water. The flow of this information gives you insight into the world and some waves will “resonate” and provoke a response.
Within the field of fluid dynamics there are several parameters that determine the way a fluid behaves. One of them is viscosity. Viscosity is the state of being thick, sticky, and semi-fluid in consistency, due to internal friction (source). Water is low in viscosity (more fluent), than thick paint for example. The more something is fluid, the more it is able to adapt and change its patterns. But there is more. Namely, every fluid also has its own Reynolds number. The Reynolds number is a number that predicts how fluids will flow in certain situations (source). Low Reynolds numbers will indicate smooth flow behavior. While higher Reynolds numbers will give turbulent and chaotic flow behavior. If we are able to translate the flow of fluids to actual human behavior by terms of viscosity and Reynolds number, how cool would that be? A concept quite hard to grasp. But we all know what chaotic behavior is, how we have internal friction, and our ability to flow across life. To find our path flowing through the world.
Some video desserts:
The fluids of human movement beautifully visualized through human dancers by Shinichi Maruyama
This video made me realize that air is much more of a fluid flowing then I used to think about it. This technique for photographing the flow of fluids is called the Schlieren photography.