rayleigh taylor instability

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Here on Earth, placing a dense layer of fluid atop a less dense layer is unstable. Specifically, the situation causes the interface between the two fluids to break down in what is known as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability.The video above shows a 2D numerical simulation of this breakdown, with the darker, denser fluid on top. The waviness of the initial interface provides a perturbation–a small disturbance–which grows in time. The two fluids spiral into one another in a fractal-like mushroom pattern. The continued motion of the dense fluid downward and the lighter fluid upward mixes the entire volume toward a uniform equilibrium. For those interested in the numerical methods used, check out the original video page. (Video credit: Thunabrain)

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This super high resolution video (check the original on YouTube) by filmmaker Jacob Schwarz features slow motion diffusion of ink into water. The subtle differences in density between the ink and the water promote instabilities such as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability and its distinctive cascade of mushroom- or umbrella-like shapes. The mixing of two fluids seems like a simple concept, but the reality is beautiful, complex, and always fascinating. (Video credit: J. Schwarz; submitted by Rebecca S.)

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Chemical Bouillon’s art often mixes chemistry and fluid dynamics. Here dense UV dyes falling through a less dense fluid form long strings with mushroom-like caps or tree-like branches. (For reference, gravity is pointing up relative to the video frame in most clips.) This behavior is related to the Rayleigh-Taylor instability that deforms interfaces and causes mixing between unstably stratified fluids.  (Video credit: Chemical Bouillon)