Using a technique more commonly used to image the supersonic shock cones forming around test aircraft in wind tunnels, a group of scientists say they've captured the dynamics of a cough on film for the first time. And yes...it looks absolutely as disgusting as you may imagine.
Schlieren photography involves shining collimated light past a knife edge onto a target, and variations in the refractive index of moving air create "shadows" of a sort in the image captured on film, and it's most often used to solve aeronautical air-flow problems, or weapons in action. Like this shot fired from an AK47:
But Doctors Gary Settles from Penn State University and Julian Tang from Singapore tweaked the technique and created an image of the turbulent air stirred up by a cough, which is apparently a very unexplored phenomenon. They plan to use the technique to explore how coughs spread diseases like SARS and the flu.
And while that kind of clever science could end up having big health pay-offs, this image should just do one single thing for you and I: next time you feel a cough coming on, put your hand over your mouth won't you? [IHT via Uberreview]