Whirls and Fleas

Turbulence is interesting to anyone dealing with flow – any liquid flow, which includes airflow. Mathematician, physicist, pacifist and iceberg-detector LF Richardson wrote:

“Big whirls have little whirls, which feed on their velocity, and little whirls have lesser still, and so on to viscosity.”
LF Richardson (in 1922)
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A play on Augustus de Morgan’s: 

“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on”

Augustus De Morgan, A Budget of Paradoxes, 1915

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Which in turn, is a rewording of Jonathan Swift’s: 

“So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet in his kind
Is bit by him that comes behind”

Jonathan Swift, Poetry, A Rhapsody. 1733

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