Researchers solve 500-year-old da Vinci puzzle: “Leonardo’s paradox” cracked | life & knowledge

Researchers solve 500-year-old da Vinci puzzle: “Leonardo’s paradox” cracked |  life & knowledge

Leonardo’s Paradox solved!

Five centuries ago, the universal genius Leonardo da Vinci made an observation that he simply could not explain. Since then, scientists have tried again and again to solve the puzzle – in vain. But now two researchers were able to crack the nut!

That’s what it’s all about: Da Vinci observed that air bubbles move differently in water. While some simply ascend straight, others zigzag or spiral upwards.

The genius was so fascinated that he recorded the different movement. But no matter how much he racked his brains—and hundreds of others centuries after him—no one came up with a satisfactory explanation, let alone the basic physical mechanism behind the process.

Da Vinci’s drawing of “Leonardo’s Paradox”

Photo: University of Seville

Until a few days ago: Prof. Miguel Ángel Herrada from the University of Seville and Prof. Jens G. Eggers from the University of Bristol published a study that explains the unstable movement of bubbles rising in water.

Accordingly, it depends on the size of the air bubble how it moves in the water. When their spherical radius exceeds 0.926 millimeters, the motion changes from rectilinear ascending to spiral motion.

Herrada and Eggers explain the process as follows: By tilting the bubble, it changes its curvature. This in turn influences the rate of climb and causes a kind of tumbling of the bladder.

This causes the bladder to “tilt” up and to the side of the curve. As fluid pressure decreases around the curved surface, the pressure imbalance causes the bubble to tip back to its original position—and the cycle begins again.

The results of the investigation were published in the specialist magazine „Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences“ released.

According to the two scientists, this discovery could have applications in all sorts of fields: “The movement of bubbles in water plays a central role in a wide range of natural phenomena, from the chemical industry to the environment,” they write in the study.


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