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How have experts estimated the amount of oil that was shooting out of that pipe in the Gulf? I bet there's some neat math or physics involved here, and some interesting assumptions considering how little concrete data are available.

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Probably much better suited for – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jul 30 '10 at 16:33
@Blue really? Seems fine here to me :/ – BBischof Jul 30 '10 at 17:32
A cursory Google search brought this up: – Qiaochu Yuan Jul 30 '10 at 21:19
I'm not sure it belongs on stats, either -- but it does not belong here. Numerical estimation could be its own stackexchange, but it's not mathematics. – Heath Hunnicutt Aug 7 '10 at 2:16
@Heath: I think that is a question for the meta. However questions about the modelling of this phenomenon are certainly appropriate here. – James Aug 12 '10 at 10:16

3 Answers 3

One interesting fact told to me by my father, a chem engineer, is that if you have a high pressure gas leaking into a low pressure gas through a small hole, there is a upper limit to the rate of flow. That is, no matter how high the pressure gets on the high pressure side, the rate of flow does not surpass some finite limit. I suppose this relates to the speed of sound, but I don't know. I also don't know if there a corresponding phenomenon with liquids.

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that's very interesting--please source it if you can! – Michael Haren Apr 8 '11 at 2:47
This is definitely not true for liquids, however, for gases it might be. It has something to do with the compressibility of gases. There is some information here: – picakhu Apr 28 '12 at 16:20

The following page should be of some help:

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I don't think it's relevant, when we are speaking about oil leak, it's a directed flow, not a diffusion. – Fiktor Sep 1 '10 at 21:19

I think this may be of some help:

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I can't read that without buying it... – Michael Haren Apr 8 '11 at 2:59

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