Spherical Rayleigh-Taylor Instabilities, to be exact. That’s what happens when two fluids of different densities collide under the force of gravity. The pattern can be seen in everything from the mushroom clouds of nuclear explosions to cosmic supernovae. But as science photographer Linden Gledhill demonstrates, you can also recreate the fluid dynamics phenomenon at home, using nothing but ink, water, and a good camera.
“I was inspired by the computer modelling work of Mark Stock who has been doing some amazing simulations of Spherical Rayleigh-Taylor Instabilities of liquids falling through other liquids,” Gledhill told Gizmodo in an email. “I’ve set up a small tank of water with an optical window in the base and I’m now exploring the instabilities of ink falling through the tank.”
Like Stock’s models, Gledhill’s ink droplets twist and distort under the effects of gravity as they plunge through water. The results are short lived—eventually, ink and water will combine in an inseparable union—but during those fleeting seconds of first contact, the contorted dance between the two fluids is a beautiful sight to behold.