Media Hunt #1: Chaotic Lava Lamps

(Please excuse this “director’s” strange camera work at the beginning.)

One descriptor that our class came up with for chaotic systems was an overall deterministic outcome.  After being fully heated, the lava lamps will always send bubbles from the bottom to the top of lamp.  Further more, these bubbles will always eventually descend back to the bottom after a little bit of time.  While chaotic systems have general predictability, they have no exact predictability.  One can never predict when the next bubble will appear, how big it will be, whether it will hit another bubble, or how quickly it will descend after reaching the top of the lamp (if it reaches the top at all).  The lava lamps are also sensitive to initial conditions, specifically, the amount of heat.  Though it cannot be seen in this video, lava lamps that are not fully heated will not bubble or will create “failed bubbles” (bubbles that do not complete the full cycle from bottom to top and back to bottom of the lamp).  After hitting a certain heat, the system changes from “failed bubbles” to the bubbles seen in the video.  This is much like the logistic map experiment we did in class where changing R from 2.9 to 3.1 completely changed what would happen.

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