Hawai'i Space Grant College, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and
Planetology, University of Hawai'i, 1996
||Cake Batter Lava
To understand some of the geological processes and the structures that
form as lava flows across planetary landscapes by using cake batter as
an analog for lava.
channels and levees
large mixing bowl, preferably with handle and pouring spout
large baking sheet or wooden drawing board with a 10-cm grid on it
protractor with plumb line
tape measure or ruler
Stir the mixture of dry cake mix and water in the bowl.
A few lumps are acceptable.
Prop up one end of the board at an angle of about 15° (use the
protractor and plumb line to determine the angle). Make sure
the board does not sag.
Hold the bowl of cake batter about 10 cm down-slope from the high end of
the board. This will help prevent batter from spilling accidently onto
Keep the bucket about 10 cm above the board. Pour the batter slowly.
It is important to keep the pour rate as constant as possible.
Start the stopwatch when the flow front passes the zero
Watch the flow as it goes downhill and spreads out, and record the time
it reaches each 10 cm mark. How far behind the flow front does the distinct
channel become apparent?
Record the time when you stopped pouring (the flow will continue to move).
Fill in the "Data Tables."
Note the channel and levees as well as shear zones within the levees. Does
the channel extend the entire length of the flow?
Using the tape measure, measure the length, width, and center depth
of the flow and the channel width at each 10 cm mark. Fill in the
Draw the outline of the flow using the grid as a guide.
When you are finished studying the flow, use the spatula to scrape
the batter back into the bowl. The board should be clean and ready for
the next procedure.
Now prop the board up higher to an angle of about 25° and repeat the
experiment. The batter may flow off the end of the board this time, so
make sure the flat underlying surface is washable or protected with plastic.
How do the flow structures in this flat part compare to those on the slope?
Repeat all the measurements and fill in the "Data Tables."
How do the two experimental flows compare? Is the ratio of channel width
to flow width the same?
Go to Data
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