When liquid nitrogen is set into rotation in a warm pot, the surface, initially forming an axis symmetrical, toroidal shape, spontaneously re-structures into a series of rotating polygons with a diminishing number of corners, while slowing down. This spontaneous "ordering" occurs despite the violently turbulent and boiling state of the fluid. We show experimentally that these shapes are well-described as a sum of a few Fourier modes, and we present experimental results for the development of the frequencies and amplitudes of these wave-modes during the transient process. We compare our results with the theoretical results for the instabilities of a potential vortex flow and argue that the first polygon formed in the transient process should be described by this theory. The paper is dedicated to the memory of Yves Couder, colleague, friend and a life-long source of inspiration.
- Rotating polygons
- Fluid instabilities
- Free surface flows
- Spontaneous symmetry breaking
- Shape dynamics