Fun with Gravity

Neil Fraser wondered if a lava lamp would still work in the higher gravity environment of Jupiter. How such a question ever occurs to anyone is a matter of wonder in itself, but Fraser went ahead and built a ten-foot centrifuge in his living room to conduct an experiment to answer the question.

The centrifuge is a genuinely terrifying device. The lights dim when it is switched on. A strong wind is produced as the centrifuge induces a cyclone in the room. The smell of boiling insulation emanates from the overloaded 25 amp cables. If not perfectly adjusted and lubricated, it will shred the teeth off solid brass gears in under a second. Runs were conducted from the relative safety of the next room while peeking through a crack in the door.

Highlight this text for a spoiler: Yes, the lava lamp worked in 3G.

[via Digg]

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15 Responses to Fun with Gravity

  1. I love that he’s using a Nexus One to measure G-Force. Open platforms, got to love’em.

  2. I love that he's using a Nexus One to measure G-Force. Open platforms, got to love'em.

  3. It looks like the Coriolis forces are having a significant effect. How could the experiment be changed to minimize that effect, so that it was more similar to Jupiter’s gravity?

  4. It looks like the Coriolis forces are having a significant effect. How could the experiment be changed to minimize that effect, so that it was more similar to Jupiter's gravity?

  5. Wouldn't the lava lamp need to be on its side with the base facing outwards to simulate gravity, as that's the direction the g-forces are going?

    • The part the lamp was locked into could tilt freely. The angle it tips is the sum of the vertical and horizontal g-s, so when it started it was vertical, but then tilted as it picked up speed.

      Did the meter say 2g? That isn't all that much

  6. Wouldn’t the lava lamp need to be on its side with the base facing outwards to simulate gravity, as that’s the direction the g-forces are going?

    • The part the lamp was locked into could tilt freely. The angle it tips is the sum of the vertical and horizontal g-s, so when it started it was vertical, but then tilted as it picked up speed.

      Did the meter say 2g? That isn’t all that much

  7. Since when has gravity had any effect on convection? I'd think that whether the lamp is on jupiter or not doesn't matter, since it's heat energy entering and leaving the 'lava' and changing the density that causes it to rise and fall.

  8. Since when has gravity had any effect on convection? I’d think that whether the lamp is on jupiter or not doesn’t matter, since it’s heat energy entering and leaving the ‘lava’ and changing the density that causes it to rise and fall.

  9. Interesting set-up. I'm certainly impressed with Neil's ingenuity in building a centrifuge of that size without causing some serious damage. I wouldn't mess with it! But I'm curious about the same thing as "someone". Is the actual gravity on Jupiter only 2 g's…? Doesn't seem too much.

  10. Interesting set-up. I’m certainly impressed with Neil’s ingenuity in building a centrifuge of that size without causing some serious damage. I wouldn’t mess with it! But I’m curious about the same thing as “someone”. Is the actual gravity on Jupiter only 2 g’s…? Doesn’t seem too much.