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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Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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What Is the Citizenship of a Baby Born on an International Flight?

Nadezhda1906/iStock via Getty Images
Nadezhda1906/iStock via Getty Images

It's pretty standard medical advice: a pregnant woman shouldn’t travel via airplane 36 weeks or later into her pregnancy. Despite that precaution, an occasional bundle of joy may still add an unexpected passenger to the flight manifest. As if giving birth at 40,000 feet wasn't already a stressful experience for a new mom, things can get even more hectic upon landing: Depending on the details surrounding the birth, her newborn’s citizenship could be up for debate.

There is no universal rule for how a country determines the citizenship of a newborn. Some countries just follow the jus sanguinis (right of blood) law, which means a baby’s nationality is determined by that of one or both parents. Others observe that rule and jus soli (right of the soil), where a country grants citizenship to a baby that’s simply born on its soil, regardless of the parents’ origin. These countries are mostly in the Americas and include the United States and Canada. And with the expansion of air travel, these laws had to extend to the heavens as well.

If a baby is born over United States airspace, the jus soli rule means the child would be granted U.S. citizenship, according to the Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual. Depending on the circumstances, the child may also be a candidate for dual citizenship if its parents are from a country that grants citizenship based on blood—though that would depend on the countries involved.

This same simplicity doesn’t extend to a jus sanguinis country, though. This means that an American mother can’t attain French citizenship for her baby just because she gave birth over French airspace. The baby would simply revert to the parent's U.S. citizenship, since the United States also generally follows jus sanguinis when a baby is born to U.S. citizens in a foreign country. Since jus sanguinis is the far more common rule around the globe, most babies born on a flight over international waters or foreign airspace will likely wind up taking the citizenship of its parents.

If there’s a case where the child could potentially be stateless—such as when a mother herself has no official citizenship and the baby is born in international airspace—the baby would likely take the citizenship of whatever country the plane itself is registered in, according to the United Nations’s Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness agreement.

Despite all these complex laws, mid-flight births are exceedingly rare—so rare, in fact, that most airlines don’t even keep track of the number of babies born in the air. An expecting mother likely wouldn't even be able to get onto a flight in the first place, since many airlines have rules that prohibit women from flying after they've reached a certain point in their pregnancy.

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