October 2014 – The wake

Wake spreading after duck

Wild Duck (Mallard) swimming across a water surface, generating a wake behind it. Small waves can be seen capturing up with the main wake, overtaking it, and then dissolving as they advance ahead and loose their energy. Söderåsen National Park, Sweden.
Photo: Lasse Johansson

Quietly, the duck swims across the water surface, its legs paddling silently underneath. Behind it, a small wake spreads distinctly, disturbing the otherwise completely still water surface. The sun is setting over the little lake – the oblique light causes the ripples to stand out, bringing them to my attention. Here at the outlet, just above a small dam, pieces of pond weed come drifting in an almost invisible current, and the duck hunts for food. Continue reading

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September 2014 – The breath of water

Waterfall steps at Lärjedalen

Water cascading down a flight of waterfall steps. Segment of Storåsfallet, Lärjedalen, outside Gothenburg, Sweden.
Photo: Lasse Johansson

Breathtaking, the falling water rumbles down in front of me. At one place a metre or less, at another place cascading from so high above that I cannot estimate it. Moving with all its forms, and yet remaining firmly at the same place. Peaceful in all its turmoil.

What is it that makes it so majestic? Is it the murmuring splashing sound? Is it the slow motion movement, being pulled irresistibly towards the rim, and then falling, falling, falling, until the white foaming surface at the bottom comes to meet? Continue reading

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August 2014 – The power of water

Clouds glowing at night

Water in the sky (clouds) reflecting the power from the sun that feeds us all. Sunset at Fredensborg, Sweden. Photo: Lasse Johansson

“It is junk science”, their adversaries would say. And with a decision ruled beforehand, there was really no need to examine all the intricacies in detail. The electrochemists Martin Fleischmann (1927-2012) and Stanley Pons (1943-) had, in a long series of experiments, observed heat production from electrolysis of heavy water with a special electrode made of palladium. The energy released far exceeded the electrical energy that was put into the experiment. Having examined possible sources of the energy, they had come to the conclusion that a nuclear reaction was going on, and the effect was dubbed “cold fusion” – an effect promising clean and unlimited energy from water. Continue reading

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July 2014 – The artist’s water

The undulating water mirror

Reflections in an undulating water surface, stretching in the vertical direction. Slussen, Orust island, at the west coast of Sweden.
Photos and illustrations: Lasse Johansson

Like a painting, the water surface shimmers. Its low undulating forms, just slightly curved, one in front of another, has been shaped by the wind or a passing boat, and the water surface comes to life. Like the memory filtering an artist’s impression, the water surface has its own way of filtering our impressions, the image of the land reflected across the bay appears fuzzy and smeared out. Continue reading

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June 2014 – The dancing plumes

Dancing plumes from irrigation sprinkler

Plumes of water emerging from an irrigation sprinkler. Lärjedalen gardens, outside Gothenburg, Sweden.
Photo: Lasse Johansson

Swish, swish, swish, I have to run to escape the plumes of water cascading round and round over the small field. Innumerable water droplets journey together, upwards, upwards, then turning, falling, dissolving into a cloud of rain. Down below, the garden plants gratefully receive the life-giving water drops, capturing the droplets with their leaves. Some droplets continue, trickling down onto the bare umber soil underneath, wetting the soil and darkening it. Seeking its way into the hollows, seeping down, absorbed by the clayey, colloid substance that forms the fertile topsoil. Continue reading

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May 2014 – The healing water

Glittering water bottles

Water, a most mundane substance (or is it not?), here captured in bottles and glittering in the sun.
Photo: Lasse Johansson

The water flashes in the bottle, refracting the light from the sun. Veiled behind drops of condensation, a small pocket of air resides, between the surface of the water and the cap. Silvery, with a magical shimmer, water can sometimes look almost otherworldly. Like the healing elixir, brought to the companions of King Arthur, from the misty realms of Avalon.

The idea of some waters having a healing power can be traced back at least to ancient Greece. Equally old is the idea that hands-on healing (laying on of hands) may have a healing effect. In the 1960s, the Canadian biologist Bernard Grad (1920-2010) decided to investigate Continue reading

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April 2014 – The branching river

Branch in river Rönne

Branching in the river Rönne, Sweden. To the left a small island has formed in the river. Photo: Lasse Johansson

Under the trees, the river flows silently. Meandering in the shade, the water looks dark and cool. As the eyes get used to the dim light, the dense undergrowth can be discerned at the banks. Slowly, the canoe drifts along, the banks of the river come to meet, and then fall away behind.

Now a small overgrown bank appears, dividing the river for a moment, quickly followed by another. The branches of the grey alder trees reach down to the river surface, almost touching it. After a turn, the river broadens somewhat, and a small archipelago opens up. The sun glimmers at the centre of the stream. A branch divides to the right, flowing for some 50 meters, then joining the main body of water again. After a while the river seems to narrow again, making a left turn, now flowing as a whole again.

What causes the branching of the river? Continue reading

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March 2014 – The fish and the propeller

Karman vortex street - fully developed

Kármán vortex street, generated by a paddle and captured on paper with dye. The inrolling motion, clockwise at left, counter-clockwise at right, has developed more fully, and the alternating vortexes are clearly discernible. Paddle movement is downwards. From a workshop with Nigel Wells. Archives of Institute of Ecological Technology.

Flip, flap, flip, flap, the tail fin of the trout swishes to and fro, thrusting the fish forward in the still water. Silently it speeds away under the surface. Seemingly without effort it moves, leaving a series of wakes behind. As a contrast, our propeller thrusts water backwards indiscriminately, creating a white foam of turbulent water behind the boat. How can the fish swim so fast and elegant, almost effortlessly? Continue reading

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February 2014 – The natural flowform

Natural flowforms in the river Sjoa

Natural flowforms in a small side stream beside the main current of river Sjoa. Over time, water has carved the rounded forms, aided by the occasional boulder. Here they express a rhythm of their own, with water dancing from pond to pond. Sjoa, Norway. Photo: Dag Birkeland

Powerful, the mass of water is rushing past me, a white blueish foaming torrent. Confined between the towering stone walls in the gorge, the river here has acquired a relentless quality, thrusting forward unstoppable.

Making sure that I stand on firm ground, I observe it. Falling into the deep river here, one would be lost, immediately being taken into the depths by the strong fraying currents. Here a man’s power matters little. Continue reading

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January 2014 – Water and climate

Clouds drifting off the coast at dawn

Clouds drifting off the coast at dawn. View from Orust island, at the west coast of Sweden. Photo: Lasse Johansson

Surrounded by mist, the tree covered ridges sleep across the water. Almost completely wrapped in clouds, the coast is waiting for the day to come. Slowly, slowly, the sun rises in the north-east, tinting the low-hanging clouds pink. Pale and yellow, gazing through the haze, it rises, starting to heat up the air, its heat being almost indiscernible. Continue reading

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December 2013 – When water freezes

Distilled water ice image

Ice image of distilled water: A sparse and ordered structure surrounds the core. Photo: From the Gisela Ahlberg collection, Institute of Ecological Technology. (The photos have been slightly colorized.)

The temperature drops, water cools, and suddenly, there is a crest of ice on the surface, slowly growing and deepening. Soon it will be so hard that we can touch it without destroying it, and even walk on it. Anyone who has been skating on a lake will know that there is ice and there is ice. Sometimes clear, sometimes so filled with air bubbles as to be almost completely opaque.

The Swedish water investigator Gisela Ahlberg decided to explore this, and devised a method, together with her colleague Christina Weldero, to study natural waters by ice images. Continue reading

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November 2013 – Flow shaping with water plants

Stream water-crowfoot

Egg-shaped patch of Stream Water-crowfoot Ranunculus penicillatus in the Biała Lądecka stream, a submountainous river in Sudety Mountains, distr. Kłodzko, Poland. Photo: Wojciech Puchalski.

The Austrian forester and natural philosopher Viktor Schauberger (1885-1958) perceived many ways of altering a river’s flow, not by trying to steer water into a particular course, but by creating conditions for water to self-organize into a new flow pattern.

By altering the conditions, the river’s flow would effortlessly change into a new pattern. The flow would have a new structurally stable attractor, ever changing yet recognizable as the same. Continue reading

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