Braiding patterns on an inclined plane

Nature. 2004 Jul 8;430(6996):165. doi: 10.1038/430165a.


A jet of fluid flowing down a partially wetting, inclined plane usually meanders but--by maintaining a constant flow rate--meandering can be suppressed, leading to the emergence of a beautiful braided structure. Here we show that this flow pattern can be explained by the interplay between surface tension, which tends to narrow the jet, and fluid inertia, which drives the jet to widen. These observations dispel misconceptions about the relationship between braiding and meandering that have persisted for over 20 years.