08 January 2005

The lava lamp

Though it looks really simple, the lava lamp is actually a delicate balancing act of two substances (one is solid, the other liquid) that have similar densities. But when their environment is heated up (via a lamp at the bottom on the container), the solid substance's molecules expand, and in this state it becomes less dense than the surrounding fluid. Hence it rises to the top of the container. However, as it distances itself from the heat source, it cools off and eventually descends to the bottom. This effect is repeated over time, the globules rising and descending, merging and dispersing, a mezmerizing dance in space.

The delicate combination of substances can be replicated at home. A simple Google search for "lava lamp" will reveal several sites about this 60s novelty item. However, it is very difficult to replicate, and may even cost more than buying the actual thing.

This was part of my request to my gift-giver in our kris-kringle last December. Have I mentioned I'm a sucker for novelty items? This lava lamp is a cool gift suggestion, a unique alternative to the usual tabletop items, photo frames, accessories and clothing.
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