A Display Device that Calms the Mind

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Who invented the lava lamp?

A Display Device that Calms the Mind

"If you buy a lava lamp you won't need to buy drugs," Edward Craven Walker, inventor of the conversation piece, is reported to have said. If you didn't grow up in the 1970s, you might think the lava lamp is a weird invention, but they have actually sold continuously after a pair of Americans bought the rights to manufacture the lamp in the US. Walker earned his patent in 1971 and was known to be a nudist in the hippie days of the UK. Once you see a lava lamp, it's hard to turn away. It utilizes dyed water, mineral oil, paraffin wax and carbon tetrachloride--all sealed into a glass container. In the base of the container is a light bulb. When heat is generated by the bulb, the substance inside--often the color red--rises, but as it moves away from the heat source, it begins to solidify again, sink and break up into a pleasing pattern of pieces. Each time it does so the pattern changes. One company has used the lava lamp to study random numbers. When London shopkeepers first saw the lava lamp, they were skeptical but it eventually caught on and was often seen in nightclubs and private flats. Its American manufacturers, obtained the trademark, Lava Lite (r) before marketing it. Walker died in 2000. Before his death, he told the Associated Press that he thought lava lamps were like any other cycle of life and death, and that they would always be popular. It appears he was right. The patent number for a lava lamp is 3,570,156.

   

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