Lava ™ lamps

Today I got a USB-powered toy similar to a Lava ™ lamp. This inspired me to get my real Lava lamp and move it from the living room to my office. I find these to be fascinating, and I'm always thinking about how difficult that flow would be to model. When the lamp is starting up, you have a mixed-phase flow with state transitions. I mentioned this to a friend online, who pointed me at this which is okay as far as it goes. But I think it is an over-simplification. One question I'd like answered is whether state transitions (from liquid to solid or vice versa) are important in the functioning of the lamp once it is up to temperature. It is hard to tell whether the wax globules truly have a "skin" or whether what appears to be a skin is just the boundary between two imiscible liquids. I've seen a Lava lamp screen saver - I suppose I could look at the source for that to see whether it is an actual fluid model, and what the parameters are.

Comments:

Some former colleagues of mine reckoned that if you hooked up a Lava(TM) lamp and a photo-cell, shining the light-beam through the Lava lamp so that the photo-cell beam was broken when a lump of Lava got in the way... you could have a quite effective random-number generator.

Posted by Robin Wilton on January 12, 2006 at 05:30 PM PST #

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