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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The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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Why Are Common Graves Called Potter’s Fields?

Graves in potter's fields are sometimes marked with blank headstones or crosses.
Graves in potter's fields are sometimes marked with blank headstones or crosses.
vyasphoto/iStock via Getty Images

For centuries, regions around the world have maintained common graves called potter’s fields, where they bury unidentified victims and impoverished citizens who couldn’t afford their own cemetery plots. The term potter’s field has been around for just as long.

The earliest known reference to a potter’s field is from the Gospel of Matthew, which historians believe was written sometime during the 1st century. In it, a remorseful Judas gives the 30 silver coins he was paid for betraying Jesus back to the high priests, who use it to purchase a “potter’s field” where they can bury foreigners. It’s been speculated that the priests chose land from a potter either because it had already been stripped of clay and couldn’t be used for farming, or because its existing holes and ditches made it a particularly good place for graves. But Matthew doesn’t go into detail, and as the Grammarphobia Blog points out, there’s no evidence to prove that the original potter’s field was ever actually used for its clay resources—it could’ve just been a parcel of land owned by a potter.

Whatever the case, the term eventually caught on as English-language versions of the Bible made their way across the globe. In 1382, John Wycliffe translated it from Latin to Middle English, using the phrase “a feeld of a potter,” and William Tyndale’s 1526 Greek-to-English translation of the passage featured “a potters felde,” which was altered slightly to “potters field” in King James’s 1611 edition.

Around the same time, a new definition of potter was gaining popularity that had nothing to do with pottery—in the 16th century, people began using the word as a synonym for tramp or vagrant. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was first written in a 1525 Robin Hood tale, and William Wordsworth mentioned it in his 1798 poem “The Female Vagrant.” It’s likely that this sense of the word helped reinforce the idea that a potter’s field was intended for the graves of the unknown.

It’s also definitely not the only phrase we’ve borrowed from the Bible. From at your wit’s end to a fly in the ointment, here are 18 everyday expressions with holy origins.

[h/t Grammarphobia Blog]