Lava Lamps

June 8th, 2009

I was lying on my bed trying to think of what to write about. I got an idea while I was staring at my lava lamp. Why not find out about lava lamps?  Wikipedia says,

A lava lamp is a novelty item used for decoration rather than illumination; the slow, chaotic rise and fall of variously-shaped blobs of wax is suggestive of lava. … The lamps are available with a variety of styles and colors of wax and liquid.

Lava lamps have an incandescent bulb or a Halogen lamp that heats the tempered glass bottle containing water and a translucent mix of wax and carbon tetrachloride. … A metallic wire coil in the base heats and suspends the falling blobs of wax. The wax is slightly denser than the water at room temperature but is less dense under warmer conditions.

This occurs because wax expands more than water when both are heated. When it’s heated, the wax becomes fluid, its specific gravity decreases, and the blobs of wax ascend to the top of the device.

The Wikipedia article continues,

Edward Craven Walker invented the lava lamp in the 1960s. … Walker named the lava lamp Astro and had variations such as the Astro mini, and the Astro Coach Lantern. … The lamps were a success throughout the 60s and early 70s. The name was changed to Lava-Simplex in the early 1970s. …

In 2004, Phillip Quinn … was killed trying to heat up a lava lamp on his kitchen stove while observing from a few feet away. The heat from the stove built up pressure in the lamp until it exploded, spraying pieces of glass with enough force to pierce his chest, with one piece piercing his heart and causing fatal injuries. The circumstances of his death were later repeated and confirmed in a 2006 episode of the popular science television series Mythbusters. The show proved that even if shards of glass are not thrown with lethal velocity … the resulting spray of hot liquid from the lamp could cause severe burns to anyone nearby. The show also noted that the safety instructions clearly state that lava lamps should not be heated by any source other than the specially-designed bases that are provided.

I love lava lamps! I think they are very cool. I have one in my room that has pink liquid and red blobs of wax. I look at it while I go to sleep. I think they are a great decoration!

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2 Responses to “Lava Lamps”

  1. Larry |

    The Lava Lamp has appealed to people for a long time. My youngest son has collected several. Some are quite old but still gurgle and bubble right along.

    Be careful with the newer ones from China. The high intensity bulbs generate enough heat to become a fire hazard.


  2. Tom |

    Lava lamps are lumped in with the culture of the late 60s and 70s — bell-bottomed pants, mini-skirts, big hair, psychedelic VW van paintjobs, etc. Some snobbish folks think that if you have a lava lamp, you’re stuck somewhere in the tacky past. Personally, I don’t have a lava lamp, but I wish I did. Every time I see one, I can’t take my eyes off it, and I end up pleasantly lost in the smooth, infinite shifting of shapes. Maybe I’ll get one….

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