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The recent discovery of the Higgs boson has confirmed theories about the origin of mass and, with it, offered the potential to explain other scientific mysteries.

But, scientists are continually studying other, less-understood forces that may also shed light on matters not yet uncovered. Among these is quantum turbulence, writes Katepalli Sreenivasan, an NYU University Professor, in a special issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sreenivasan's introductory analysis, written with issue co-editors Carlo Barenghi of Newcastle University and Ladislav Skrbek of Prague's Charles University, examines the direction and promise of this phenomenon.

Quantum turbulence is the chaotic motion -- at very high rates -- of fluids that exist at temperatures close to zero.

Observers as far back as Leonardo da Vinci have studied turbulence -- a complex state of fluid motion. The Renaissance artist observed that water falling into a pond creates eddies of motion, thus realizing that the motion of water shaped the landscape.

Today, scientists study much bigger ponds -- the universe and beyond -- but remain focused on this phenomenon's basic principles.

This is because of its fundamental significance in daily occurrences -- for instance, the efficiency of jet engines depends on turbulence -- as well as its impact on developments far beyond our observation, such as the generation of galactic magnetic fields.

However, many of its workings continue to elude comprehension.

"Turbulence still provides physicists, applied mathematicians, and engineers with a continuing challenge," the authors write.

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