NPR’s Robert Krulwich calls this “the perfect tree for an oil billionaire.” It kind of looks to us more like the perfect tree for a T-1000, but it’s possible there’s some overlap. Those guys can’t all be real people.
This is the work of artists Sachiko Kodama and Yasushi Miyajima, and, although they call these “morpho towers,” they do look an awful lot like Christmas trees spinning up out of a pool of oil and then shedding their needles.
Krulwich explains how it works:
It’s not exactly oil, it’s ferrofluid, which is oil laced with bits of iron oxide. When the magnets are turned on, the little bits of iron (and the oil with them) are pulled by a magnetic field into columns and shapes that produce the “tree.”
The oil and iron, steered by the magnets, become “branches.” Surface tension in the oil causes those branches to pull in on themselves, forming the sharp “tips.” The “towers” Sachiko built create the spiral effect.
It’s not magic; it’s science. And it’s probably the best use of oil we’ve seen in, oh, forever.