Phenomena

Rayleigh-Taylor Waves

Here on Earth, placing a denser fluid over a lighter one creates an unstable equilibrium. Thanks to gravity, the heavier, denser fluid wants to sink and the lighter fluid wants to rise. Any small disturbance will kick this into action, just like a tiny nudge can send a ball rolling down the hill. For the fluid, that nudge manifests as waviness in the interface between the two fluids. That waviness will quickly grow into billows like those shown above as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability takes over and the heavy (clear) fluid trades places with the lighter (green) fluid. You’ve probably witnessed this effect yourself when pouring milk into iced coffee. To see it in action, check out the video of this experiment or my FYFD video on the Rayleigh-Taylor instability. (Image credit: M. Davies Wykes)

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