Liquid Bounce
March 3, 2008 5:57 PM   Subscribe

At the University of Texas, researchers have produced some amazing videos and photos of liquid bouncing on liquid. This was one of's Images of the Year for 2007 (picture number 6, in the upper-right corner). The project report, along with pictures and videos, is found on their bouncing jet page, and it's quite extraordinary both for the counter-intuitive nature of the phenomenon and the extremely low-tech production methods. You can even do it at home with little more than a lazy Susan and some silicone oil.

Amazingly enough, Matthew Thrasher, one of the researchers involved, wrote his master's thesis (and later his PhD thesis) on this experiment. Oh, and his high school science fair project, while unrelated, is also pretty cool. There's something quite satisfying about this kind of DIY science.
posted by math (12 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
His advisor, Harry Swinney, also was part of the group that discovered that corn starch and water, vibrated properly, opens a gateway to hell. Seriously, though, all of the stuff that comes out of the nonlinear dynamics group at UT is totally fun.
posted by Schismatic at 6:04 PM on March 3, 2008

These pictures are apparently making quite a splash.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:21 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stone skipping is for wusses.
posted by ErWenn at 6:48 PM on March 3, 2008

Direct link to the Youtube, for the lazy.
posted by smackfu at 7:08 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tres cool. Merci beaucoup!
posted by googly at 7:27 PM on March 3, 2008

While I found this pretty interesting, I damn you to hell, Schismatic, for leading me down a trail containing the phrase "pulsating corn starch holes".

I've heard it. And I can't unhear it.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:07 PM on March 3, 2008

This is very interesting, I had never heard of this.

It reminds me of the Leidenfrost effect, as in both cases you have a gaseous boundary layer that separates the liquid from what it would otherwise be in contact with. I remember learning about the Leidenfrost effect from a Scientific American magazine in the late 1970's. I think it was in the "Amateur Scientist" section. I remember it being proposed as a prosaic explanation for fire walking, which is not correct. As a skeptic, it's detrimental to see incorrect explanations given for unusual phenomena.

Thanks, wonderful post.
posted by Tube at 8:30 PM on March 3, 2008

Damn, those pictures are fantastic. But I wish they had links to the original high-res ones. I like the gold atoms and their "unexpected geometries." Sounds like something a scientist like me would say just before my project expands to envelop the Earth and destroy all life.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:09 PM on March 3, 2008

Wow. You know, looking at those pictures of the year (and specifically my favourites, the bouncing liquid and also number 8, "Dazzling Droplet"), I had a thought: I'm not God (and I don't mean to open the epic derail of whether or not there is one now, so let's not, please), but if I were, I'd get sorta frustrated sometimes. Because so much of my best work happened on a scale that was usually entirely overlooked. I'd want to say, look over here, look at this--look how perfect this is! And it would be hard to be patient about it. I might get disappointed. But, a few billion years later, when a few people finally did notice what it looks like when liquid bounces on liquid AND figured out how to take pictures of it happening so they could show other people too, I'd feel real proud, both of them and of myself. Because, after all this time, I'd finally know that someone else noticed what I'd been waiting to show them. And that, when finding it, they shared my excitement at witnessing something so perfect.

That's all I wanted to say. I'm an atheist, but I guess a good photo just makes you think those sorts of thoughts sometimes. Thanks for the link.
posted by roombythelake at 12:37 AM on March 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Hah, let's see those College Station buffoons come up with something so cool! (Spoken as a UT graduate.) Seriously, cool post, I need to start reading those alumni newsletters from the College of Natural Sciences more carefully so I don't miss stuff like this.
posted by TedW at 4:51 AM on March 4, 2008

Great post—thanks!
posted by languagehat at 6:05 AM on March 4, 2008

If you like oddly-behaving liquids, this Kaye effect video is pretty cool.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:09 AM on March 6, 2008

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