Perfect Conditions, Perfect Pattern (Almost!)
Under the right conditions, convection cells will take the shape of hexagons. Why don't we
see hexagon-shaped clouds in the sky? Take a look at the picture to the right, and
notice the small glitch in the pattern. It was later discovered that there was a tiny
dent in the copper plate under the fluid. This tells us that the pattern is very
sensitive to the bottom surface. Think about our earth - it's surface has millions of dents
and bumps in the form of mountains, valleys, canyons, and more. All of these surface
features affect the convection patterns in the atmosphere.
Fluid in Motion
This picture shows a time lapse view of Rayleigh-Benard cells.
The picture was taken over ten seconds, so the aluminum flakes in the fluid look like long
trails instead of small particles. This helps to visulaize how the fluid is moving:
up through the center of the cell, then spreading out and sinking at the edges of the