Instead, by analyzing high-speed movies of falling water droplets, Villermaux and Bossa found that the drops go through a series of shape-shifting moves and finally burst apart into a spray of multi-sized drops. [At this point, there is a video illustrating the process. — MG]
First, the falling spherical drop gradually flattens out into a pancake shape. As it gets wider and thinner, it eventually captures the air ahead of it and deforms into a shape something like an upturned plastic grocery bag, the study shows.
When the inflated “bag” reaches a certain size, it breaks apart into many smaller droplets, which fall to the ground and get you wet. The distribution of droplets that result from the burst matches the variation seen in natural rainfall, the team reported.
This model of droplet burst was known in other contexts, such as diesel engines and liquid propellant combustion, but had never been applied to rain.
“The atmospheric science community simply had another scenario in mind, and didn’t make the connection,” Villermaux told LiveScience in an email.
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What’s more, the story shows that knowledge goes to he who appeals, not to authority and tradition, but, like Aristotle, to reason, logic, and the evidence of the senses.