I discovered something interesting on my walk around Argyle Lake. There on the water surface, a black hole surrounded by counterclockwise swirls. I stopped, hypnotized and curious.

At this point, water drains from the Lake into an auxiliary pond which is two feet lower than the lake. I checked the pond and saw a ribbed plastic pipe with water emptying. The conditions for these phenomena must have been perfect. The water level of the lake was just right. There was a faint hollow sound coming from the hole. My curiosity led me to the dictionary:

“A mass of spinning air, liquid, etc. that pulls things into its center”

I remember the Titanic as it slipped beneath the sea creating huge vortexes. To be caught in a vortex, you might be sucked in and drown.

Several other examples came to mind. Vortexes can be generated in a variety of conditions. Driving through Texas, I remember dust devils kicking up dirt midday. Likewise, I witnessed a waterspout over the Atlantic. I recall Whirlpool Rapids on the Niagara River below the falls.

Whirlpools are massive eddies such as Hurricanes and tornadoes. Once, standing on the bank of the Shinnecock Canal, as the tide ebbed and lock open, tiny vortexes appeared and disappeared.  The current made surface water spin into tiny funnels.

Other common vortexes: water draining in a kitchen sink, bathtub, toilet bowl. Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night has vortexes of light around stars. Google provides more examples: Sunspots; airplane wing drag behind wings; galaxies; and black holes in deep space. Our whole solar system is being dragged toward the sun so we are all swept up in the vortex of gravity.

During the winter, New York Times weather maps labeled huge frigid air masses descending from the Arctic and Canada called polar vortexes.

On a windy mid-afternoon, I listened to dry leaves scuffle, tumble, and swirl forming a vortex in the corner of a building. Vortexes are mysterious. To a physicist, they are mathematical formulas. For me, proof that gravity works all the time. For me, vortexes are portals into a new world where I am pulled in, spun, and transported to Oz.