Electric Honeycomb

A 17-year-old high school student in Pakistan replicated a physics visualization, and developed results that surprised some older scientists.

In simple terms, an electric honeycomb is formed when certain kinds of electrically charged particles travel between a pointy electrode and a flat one, but in the transmission, they bump into a puddle of oil along the way.

The resultant shape of this bumpy ride is a polygonal pattern, what some physicists also call the rose-window instability because it resembles the circular, stained-glass designs found in Gothic churches. It’s what happens as natural forces work to keep an electric charge moving in an interrupted circuit.

But why is it so intriguing that a bizarre shape pops up? The mystery behind the pattern is that natural forces work to keep an electric charge moving in an interrupted circuit.

Plasma Double Layers

Double layers were described in 1929 by the plasma pioneer and Nobel laureate Irving Langmuir. They form when electric current flows through plasma. Another Nobel laureate, Hannes Alfvén, described a double layer as, “… a plasma formation by which a plasma — in the physical meaning of this word — protects itself from the environment. It is analogous to a cell wall by which a plasma—in the biological meaning of this word—protects itself from the environment.”
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