Folding Fluids

Dark spider silk falls onto a surface and folds like cake batter

Highly viscous liquids – like cake batter, lava, or the spider silk above – fold as they fall. Several factors impact this instability including the fluid’s density, viscosity, surface tension, and how thin the falling sheet is. As with the coiling of falling honey, this behavior is actually a form of buckling. It’s also fascinating to watch how persistent the layers are. Even out near the edge of the puddle, you can still see individual folds. This is a sign of just how incredibly viscous the spider silk is. Imagine if this were cake batter instead: we’d see folding just like we do with the spider silk proteins, but the individual folds would quickly fade as the batter flowed to fill its container. The spider silk is more viscous, so it’s more resistant to flowing. (Image credit and submission: D. Breslauer, source)

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