What Is Inside a Lava Lamp?

FreedomMaster/iStock via Getty Images
FreedomMaster/iStock via Getty Images

It’s not exactly an accident that so few people have a clear idea of what’s inside a lava lamp, as manufacturers are notoriously tight-lipped about their top-secret recipes. Having said that, knowing how lava lamps work has definitely shed some light on what types of ingredients must be in there, and industry professionals have shared a few clues over the years, too.

Just by looking at a lava lamp in action will tell you this much: There are two different substances in there that do not mix.

Bryan Katzel, vice president of product development at the lava lamp company Schylling, told Business Insider that the watery-looking base liquid is mostly a mixture of water, colored dye, and chemicals that prevent the formation of fungus. The other ingredient, which forms the psychedelic, slowly-changing shapes that float around the lamp, is primarily made of wax. In Schylling’s case, it’s paraffin wax, a petroleum-based wax that's commonly found in candles and cosmetic products.

Because the wax and water mixtures have different densities, they don’t mix with each other. But if you’ve ever left an oil-based salad dressing sitting out for a while, you probably know that liquids with different densities typically end up settling in starkly defined layers. Why, then, does the wax in a lava lamp seem to have such a tough time deciding where it wants to be?

This is where what Katzel calls the “lava magic” comes in. Usually, since wax is less dense than water, it would simply sit on top of it. In lava lamps, however, the water-based liquid is mixed with a secret combination of chemicals that give it a similar density to the wax.

When your lamp is turned off, the wax is slightly more dense than the water, and will rest on the bottom of the lamp. When you turn your lamp on, the light bulb at its base will heat the wax, causing it to expand, lose density, and rise through the lamp. By the time it reaches the top, it has cooled, contracted, and begun to fall back down to the bottom, where it will keep repeating the process until you pull the plug.

The secret blend of chemicals needed to achieve the perfect density might be specific to each lava lamp manufacturer, but that’s not to say people haven’t tried to create DIY lava lamps at home. According to Myria.com, some have done it by mixing the wax with dry-cleaning fluid or brake cleaner (perchloroethylene) and mixing the water with pure salt and antifreeze (ethylene glycol).

No matter what’s in there, we can all agree that lava lamps are uniquely mesmerizing. Want to take your viewing experience to the next level? Watch some wild GoPro footage from the inside of a lava lamp here.

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Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

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Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

Computers and tablets

Amazon

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet 64GB; $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet 64GB; $84 (save $35)

- HP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop; $646 (save $114)

- HP Pavilion Desktop, 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10100 Processor; $469 (save $81)

- Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop; $973 (save $177)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones; $200 (save $100)

- Sony Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones; $278 (save $72)

- JBL LIVE Wireless Headphones; $100 (save $30)

- JBL Charge 4 - Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $120 (save $10)

- Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II; $79 (save $50)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $200 (save $50)

Video Games

Sony

- Watch Dogs Legion; $30 (save $30)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- The Last of Us Part II; $30 (save $30)

TECH, GADGETS, AND TVS

Samsung/Amazon

- Amazon Fire TV Stick; $30 (save $20)

- Echo Show 8; $65 (save $65)

- Nixplay Digital Picture Frame; $115 (save $65)

- eufy Smart Doorbell; $90 (save $30)

- Samsung 75-Inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $898 (save $300)

home and Kitchen

Ninja/Amazon

- T-fal 17-Piece Cookware Set; $124 (save $56)

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Curved Round Chef's Oven; $180 (save $136)

- Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 Convection Toaster Oven; $195 (save $105)

- Roborock E4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner; $189 (save $111)

- Instant Pot Max Pressure Cooker 9 in 1; $80 (save $120)

- Shark IZ362H Cordless Anti-Allergen Lightweight Stick Vacuum; $170 (save $110)

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What Is a Scuttlebutt, and Why Do We Like to Hear It?

Photo by Courtney Nuss on Unsplash

Casual conversation is home to a variety of prompts. You might ask someone how they’re doing, what’s new, or if they’ve done anything interesting recently. Sometimes, you can ask them what the scuttlebutt is. “What’s the scuttlebutt?” you’d say, for example, and then they’d reply with the solicited scuttlebutt.

We can easily infer that scuttlebutt is a slang term for information or maybe even gossip. But what exactly is scuttlebutt, and why did it become associated with idle water cooler talk?

According to Merriam-Webster, a scuttlebutt referred to a cask on sailing ships in the 1800s that contained drinking water for those on board. It was later used as the name of the drinking fountain found on a ship or in a Naval installation. The cask was known as a butt, while scuttle was taken from the French word escoutilles and means hatch or hole. A scuttlebutt was therefore a hatch in the cask.

Because sailors usually received orders from shouting supervisors, talking amongst themselves was discouraged. Since sailors could congregate around the fountain, it became a place to finally catch up and exchange gossip, making scuttlebutt synonymous with casual conversation. The scuttlebutt was really the only place to do it.

Nautical technology made the scuttlebutt obsolete, but the term endured, becoming a catch-all word for unfounded rumors.

The next time someone asks you what the scuttlebutt is, now you can tell them.

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