Would a lava lamp work properly on Jupiter? Google software engineer Neil Fraser built his own centrifuge in order to find out, using an Android phone app to measure the G forces.
The centrifuge is a genuinely terrifying device. The lights dim when it is switched on. A strong wind is produced as the centrifuge induces a cyclone in the room. The smell of boiling insulation emanates from the overloaded 25 amp cables. If not perfectly adjusted and lubricated, it will shred the teeth off solid brass gears in under a second. Runs were conducted from the relative safety of the next room while peeking through a crack in the door.
Turns out, the lava lamp would, in fact, function on Jupiter ... and the accelerometers in the Nexus One are poorly calibrated. Those problems resolved, we look forward to what Big Questions Mr. Fraser and his centrifuge will tackle next.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.