How alive is turbulence?

From a statistical physics perspective, turbulence is a non-equilibrium system, it requires a constant input of energy to be sustained. An extremely interesting non-equilibrium system is life, organisms require a constant intake of nutrients to be able to subsist. Discussions of life and statistical physics quantities like free energy and entropy are quite common. After all, if you have a bucket of water, how do you know whether something is alive inside?

This question is very hard to answer, and has many ramifications. One of the things we have been able to show in our collaboration is that turbulent worms, i.e. structures where vorticity is congregated, cause fluctuation Casimir-like forces to arise between two parallel plates in turbulence. This is a feature of non-equilibrium systems, and has been also shown to be produced by swimmers. The question becomes, what other forces or phenomena which could potentially be produced by bacteria can be replicated by "ordinary" turbulence?

We are still trying to figure this out, and the advances are very preliminary

Relevant articles

  • Casimir-like forces in turbulence, V. Spandan, R. Ostilla-Mónico, A. Lee Under Review [arXiv]