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Turbulence is widely considered one of the most important and most difficult unsolved problems in classical physics. It is also the area of fluid mechanics where the greatest effort is exerted, the most papers published and, some would argue, the least progress made. Although direct numerical simulation is becoming an increasingly valuable tool, there remains a need for high-quality experiments to underpin our theoretical and numerical progress. Such statements apply equally to the ‘classical’ problem of homogeneous isotropic turbulence and to turbulence in its many other guises. Of particular interest is turbulence in a rotating system, where it is well known that the influence of rotation leads to the development of anisotropy and the elongation of scales parallel to the rotation axis. Moisy et al. (J. Fluid Mech., 2010, this issue, vol. 666, pp. 5–35) present new experiments in the free decay of grid-generated turbulence in a rotating system. They investigate the emergence of anisotropy from essentially isotropic initial conditions. While it is well known that rotation suppresses velocity gradients parallel to the rotation axis, Moisy et al. (2010) uncover some startling and previously overlooked implications.