The Bubbly Escape

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Sometimes experiments don’t work as planned and, instead of answers, they lead to more questions. In this video, we see an experiment looking at an air bubble trapped beneath a cone. It’s the same situation you get by holding a mug upside-down in a sink full of water but with inclined walls. As the cone moves downward, it squeezes the trapped air bubble. A film of air gets pushed along the walls of the cone, eventually forming finger-like bubbles that wrap around the edge of the cone and get entrained into the vortex ring outside the cone.

Clearly, there is some kind of instability that drives the air bubble to form these fingers rather than spreading uniformly. But the big question is which one? Is this a density-driven Rayleigh-Taylor instability caused by air getting pushed into water? Or is it a Saffman-Taylor instability causes by the less viscous air forcing its way into the more viscous water? What do you think? (Image and submission credit: U. Jain)

A bubble trapped beneath a cone gets distorted and squeezed as the cone accelerates downward.
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