Kalliroscope

Simulate Jupiter’s atmospheric swirls at home!

Difficulty:
Danger:
Duration:
30 minutes
Kalliroscope

Safety

  • Carefully review the general safety advice in the instruction book before starting the experiment.
  • Perform the experiment on the underlay and use protective gloves.
  • Avoid contact with food and dishware. Thoroughly wash or dispose of any dishware you use.

Step-by-step instructions

Use the protective underlay and safety gloves to keep your hands and desktop clean.

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Assemble the central part of your setup. Use absorbent napkins: some liquid will inevitably spill on your work surface.

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Remove your gloves—it’s time for some precise engineering work! Assemble the frame to securely hold the container of liquid.

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Equip the setup with a bearing to finish your homemade kalliroscope. Now you can freely rotate the liquid without spilling it!

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Disposal

  • Dispose of solid waste together with household garbage.
  • Pour liquids down the sink. Wash with an excess of water.

Scientific description

The device you just assembled is called a kalliroscope. It was invented by artist Paul Matisse in 1966 to create objects of art. Its name can be translated from Greek as “an object to see beautiful flows.”

You’ve made a freely-rotating kalliroscope. When you spin the vessel, friction causes the liquid inside to also start whirling. By spinning the vessel continuously in one direction, you can make the outer layers move faster. It seems as if the inner layers are dragged after the outer ones, resulting in a beautiful vortex occupying the whole vessel.

If the liquid inside reaches a rather high speed and the vessel abruptly stops rotating or starts moving in another direction, you can observe more turbulent flows. They are responsible for the most intricate patterns in a kalliroscope.

The same behavior can be observed at a much larger scale in the atmospheres of a certain type of planet—the gas giants. For instance, on Jupiter, distinct atmospheric layers rotate with different speeds to create a stunning unique-looking surface.