iotw: Just Be Still

Week of February 1, 2014

Standing waves happen everywhere, but often pass unnoticed, invisible.

Usually I experience them in the form of sound. Strings or resonators overlapping and amplifying one small vibration, if it be the right frequency, until it comes back a strong, pure, tone. Thank you acousticians for all of the instruments. Lovely to hear, but hard to see those waves.

Imagine my surprise when I looked down into the shallow waters at the eastern bank of the Sacramento River and saw this:

Minute standing wave on the Sacramento River

Just Be Still
Photo: Max Odland

A real-life, literal standing wave. Made of water.

The thing was miniature, not bigger than a couple of inches across. It held perfectly steady in the late afternoon shade, even as ripples swam across the water that fed it.

Okay, I know what all you surface hydrologists out there are thinking. “That’s not a real standing wave, it’s a hydraulic jump. Get with it.”

To which I reply, “Yeah, maybe.” I don’t know enough hydrology/physics to fully understand whether there’s a connection between the two phenomena.

Either way, it’s worthy of a contemplative stare.

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