Neil Fraser’s Lava Lamp Centrifuge is 10′ across, weighs 50 pounds, and spins at 42 rpm generating 3 Gs. It uses a Nexus One’s accelerometer to measure g-force. Excellent!

Will lava lamps work in a high-gravity environment such as Jupiter? This topic spawned considerable lunch-time discussion and no clear consensus emerged. Most people initially assumed that the wax would sink to the bottom and wouldn’t cycle, but as the physics was examined in greater depth this assumption became difficult to defend.

To find out how lava lamps behave in super-terrestrial gravity, I built a large centrifuge in my living room. This was intended to be a fun activity for a long weekend in January. However the project’s size and power requirements were well outside my previous experience. Thus it was a rich learning experience as I encountered one metal-shredding and wire-melting failure after another. In the end, perseverance paid off and I obtained the answer to the original question.

[Thanks, hectocotyli!]