Feeds

Is NASA planning to send LAVA LAMPS to Jupiter?

Mighty Meccano centrifuge poses intriguing galactic question

High performance access to file storage

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 question with the help of a tremendous Meccano centrifuge, a Nexus One Android phone and a digital video camera.

The mighty Meccano centrifuge. Pic: Neil Fraser

Neil explains that his monster "pans a diameter of 3 metres, weighs about 50 kilograms and rotates at 42 RPM" - sufficient to subject the lava lamp to 3 G - "slightly higher than Jupiter's gravity (2.3 G) and equivalent to launching in the Space Shuttle" - as measured on the Nexus One's G-Force app.

The lava lamp and digital video camera mounted in the centrifuge. Pic: Neil Fraser

Running on a 12V motor and with a 120V supply for the 20 oz Lava Lamp ("the essential design element in any Google cube", apparently), the centrifuge packs some serious gearage...

The centrifuge's central drive bearings. Pic Neil Fraser

...and some equally substantial counterweight action, involving "a big steel cylinder borrowed from the equatorial mount of my telescope", "two rectangular juice bottles filled with glass marbles and topped off with water" plus "a set of steel bars lashed to the top of the girders" allowing Neil to "fine-tune the total weight":

The centrifuge's counterweight system. Pic: Neil Fraser

Neil says: "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."

So, will a lava lamp work on Jupiter? The answer is a resounding yes:

Neil conducted his audacious experiment back in 2010, but if you think we've been a bit slow out of the blocks on this one, the several readers who recently flagged it up correctly insisted that there's no statute of limitations on covering this level of garden-shed engineering.

Furthermore, when we got in touch to ask Neil for permission to use his snaps, and he kindly sent over an extra pic of him and his magnificent creation at NASA's Ames Research Center:

Neil Fraser and the centrifuge at NASA's Ames Space Center

Our conclusion is that NASA is actively investigating extraterrestrial lava lamp tech, perhaps for deployment on a future manned Jovian jaunt, and possibly to exert a calming effect on potentially bothersome onboard computers. ®

Bootnote

*The lava lamp was invented in England in 1963 by Edward Carven Walker. Apparently, Walker was supping a pint in a pub and spotted a fabulous lighting "contraption made out of a cocktail shaker, old tins and things". Suitably inspired, he worked to make the world a better, and more globulous, place.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.