At Loonskin Labs, we use the self-organizing nature of fluids to generate useful structures. This is an early experiment into the radial growth of stalactites in a centrifuge.
Stalactite Growth Loop
As the wheel spins, molten wax is applied to the central aluminum hub. Droplets are flung to the outside, but leave some mass behind. Aggregates on the rim grow inward, biased by the direction of the spinning wheel. The wheel is lit with a strobe light synced 1:1 with the rotation of the wheel. The illusion is of the wheel not spinning, while stalactites grow before your eyes.
Still under development, the short-term objective is to generate full wheel hubs in wax to be investment cast in more durable materials.
Complexity, chaos, and randomness are often misunderstood concepts. As in the case of viscous fingering in silicone membranes, no two units are the same. This is the random element - a freedom of the system to grow differently based on a sensitivity to micro-conditions. But the growth process is constrained. The path taken to grow structure fits within a regime of predictability. In the case of VF, parameters like viscosity and surface tension control the width of channels. Like snowflakes, no two are alike, but each snowflake falls within a regime that gives a characteristic shape to the crystal. For snowflakes the regimes are based on parameters like temperature and humidity, factors that determine the rate of growth of the structure. In the case of these stalactites, we can consider the temperature difference, specific heat of the crayon wax, rotation rate, feed rate, adhesive and cohesive forces, and other parameters which inform us on what the final product will look like, and how the structure will perform. By adjusting these parameters, we can engineer desirable results, using complexity, chaos, and controlled randomness.
It was thrilling to show Loonskin Labs innovations among other inventors, artists, and engineers at Autodesk's showcase. Growing Wheels drew audience members in. The crayons were familiar, the physics - exotic, but understandable. Strobe lighting the wheel added to the experience, subtly illuminating complexity.