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What does the physics of pancakes have to do with glaucoma?

ADA Sign Depot

February 23, 2016

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The physics of pancakes and glaucoma

Researchers at University College London are studying the physics of pancakes to help improve treatments for glaucoma.

Glaucoma is the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting 3.54 percent of the global population aged between 40 and 80. There is no cure; treatments are focused on management, and preventing further damage.

The main cause of this damage is increased pressure caused by fluid in the eye, and in order to help figure out how to improve surgery for glaucoma, researchers led by Ian Eames, professor of fluid mechanics at University College London, are looking at pancakes. Their research has been published in the journal Mathematics Today.

More specifically, the physical processes pancakes undergo when they are being cooked.

“Pancakes come in many shapes and sizes and everyone has their favorites — some prefer a small, thick pancake with a smooth surface whereas others enjoy a large, thin crêpe with ‘craters’ and crispy edges,” Eames said.

“We’ve discovered that the variations in texture and patterns result from differences in how water escapes the batter during cooking and that this is largely dependent on the thickness and spread of the batter.”

While studying how the water escapes from the pancakes can help make better pancakes (a noble goal in its own right), it can also help understand how flexible sheets, such as the human retina, interact with fluids and vapours, such as those that occur in glaucoma.

Read the full article on CNN: How perfect pancakes are helping prevent blindness

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