Is NASA planning to send LAVA LAMPS to Jupiter?

You know how it is: you're crashed on the sofa quaffing a beer and staring pensively at your hypnotic lava lamp when you're suddenly struck by the overwhelming desire to find out if the 1960s design classic* would work on Jupiter. Well, the good news is that Google software engineer Neil Fraser has answered this vital galactic …

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This man has a lot of time on his hands.

and . .

. . he spent it wisely.

The physics of lava lamps are complex

How that changes under different external gravitational fields.Explaining that behavior in detail would probably be a graduate level problem.

Thumbs up for this remarkable contraption.

Re: The physics of lava lamps are complex

I'm sure it's not that complex. If the fluids are incompressible there will be minimal difference with another value of G, the densities will remain the same, as will the heat capacity and melting point of the wax and oil. and the buoyancy ratio will also remain proportional.

The key factor for a lava lamp to 'work' is having a suitable cooling convection around the chamber (which this test omits)

Re: The physics of lava lamps are complex

I imagine the forced cooling of the thing whirling through the air at ~7m/s would more than compensate for any absence of convection

Re: The physics of lava lamps are complex

That's probably why, in a General Studies session at my old school (back in the 60s), the art teacher made some irritatingly dismissive remarks about lava lamps. That's probably the point when I decided that arty people have nothing useful to say and subsequent experience has only reinforced that view.

Re: The physics of lava lamps are complex

I think you've missed the point, this is supposed to be an increased G simulation. the ~7m/s wind flow is not there to compensate, it is an unintended error on the test. Additional cooling may change the behaviour more than the additional G!

'nuff said.

Special Projects Bureau next project?

Launching a rocket plane from a balloon in the Jovian atmosphere. Come on, I have faith in your abilities

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Credit where it's due

That contraption is worthy of many, many, major geek credit points. With that level of garden shed style engineering you might have thought he was British ;-)

Re: Credit where it's due

Not many British houses have rooms big enough to fit a contraption that large though.

Some might say...

...that this is a completely pointless waste of time. I am not one of these people. Have one of these.

Wrong orientation?

Have never been clear on centrifuges, but isn't the lava lamp experiencing a *lateral* 3G? So this is testing if it would work while lying on its side on Jupiter?

Re: Wrong orientation?

Look again. The cage the lamp's in can pivot, so when it gets up to speed the lamp is (almost) horizontal and the primary forces run from the top of the lamp to the bottom. There is still a lateral component of 1g, but this force is 3 times greater so it's more like having the lamp at 30 degrees or thereabouts. Cool anyway :)

Re: Wrong orientation?

Cunning, thanks I missed that. Presumably if you put a lateral G of 2.83, combined with the vertical 1G and angled at 19.5 degrees it would replicate a 3G vertical then?

Go Meccano

Frank Hornby's greatest achievement.

I don't think model railways and toy cars have contributed as much, or celebrated engineering as well as Meccano.

Re: Go Meccano

I was delighted to see that much of the Meccano used to build this centrifuge was green and notably old-looking. Unlike the modern Meccano as I've seen.

The thing that impresses me most is the lightweight frame of the base, which doesn't appear to be fixed down in any way. It must be superbly well-balanced. If I made a thing like this it would probably walk across the floor and smash the windows.

Lava lamp

When I first encountered these lamps, I'm sure they were called Astra (or possibly Astro) lamps, and the distinctive glass container appeared to come from a swanky brand of fruit squash (oxymoron alert!) whose name escapes me.

They seemed to disappear during the 70s, along with kaftans and joss-sticks. But then they reappeared with a new name. Is this evidence of the great wheel of existence? Or is my memory playing tricks - it was the 60s, after all.

Icon of hippie with a good-sized joint.

Re: Lava lamp

The Astro lamps were made by Crestworth (Edward Craven-Walker's company). After he and his wife retired, the company was bought by Cressida Granger and David Mulley, who changed the name to Mathmos.

Re: Lava lamp

Yup. Brief history courtesy of The Straight Dope: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/568/how-do-lava-lamps-work

120 Volts, Erector Sets?

With the overwhelmingly English audience here, I am surprised that the use of 120 Volt stuff and the Gilbert Company's Erector set (1960s toys, both) are getting so much response...

We have more stuff like that, if you like...

Re: 120 Volts, Erector Sets?

Meccano - 1900

Erector Set - 1913

need I say more.

Question.

How is he powering the lamp?

Lava lamps usually required a high heat bulb to melt the wax, usually a high wattage incandescent, running on mains power.. I don't see any wires wrapping around the centrifuge, so has he built a rotational power coupling too?

Or is it just a preheated lamp cooling off?

Re: Question.

I think the yellow/black wires go to some sort of brush arrangement, perhaps liberated from an old motor. I guess the alternative would be a stack of rechargeable batteries as a counterweight. Less electrocution danger, more unexpected missile potential!

Did he have to sell his furniture to build this contraption? Or maybe housemate/SO moved out for safety reasons... (I can't believe all American houses have a centrifuge room).

Re: Question.

He explains that the 120V is running through an audio plug (as used in an electric guitar) allowing the centrifuge arm to rotate through 360 degrees. Excellent chap for risking both decapitation and electrocution for our enjoyment.

Love the project...

Question: Is American home wiring generally so under-rated that the lights dim when a moderately-serious appliance is turned on? The PSU looks like 12V, so, with the motor drawing 25A, the mains current is only around 2.5A. Less than a hairdryer.

At last, we have a replacement for the ancient phrase, "not enough room to swing a cat".

Re: Love the project...

Most all wiring out here is radial (N.E.C. requirement for the most part and lighting/sockets are on the same circuit I believe for cost of materials and ease of installation so yes especially when you turn a larger appliance on the same branch as the light it will dim for brief instant. but at 110v ( sorry 120ish) what do you expect?

though at least I can get 220v from the box... which is what most of the big stuff runs on

I miss goodly power and a nice MK 13amp plug

Nice room you have here

Pity if something were to happen to it. Or to the entire neighbourhood. Seriously, it's a nice bit of ad hoc engineering but I think there's a reason NASA keeps its centrifuges in concrete bunkers.

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