Students create lava lamps at Fun with Physics

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Math sophomore Melody Packard and physics sophomore Nick Herrera heat a lava lamp mixture Oct. 5 at Fun With Physics Friday.  Photo by Vincent Reyna

Math sophomore Melody Packard and physics sophomore Nick Herrera heat a lava lamp mixture Oct. 5 at Fun With Physics Friday. Photo by Vincent Reyna

Iconic artifacts of the ’60s require trial and error.

By OSITA OMESIETE

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

Edward Craven Walker created the lava lamp in England in 1963.

Adolph Wertheimer and Hy Spector, two entrepreneurs from Chicago, discovered the creation at a German trade show in 1965, according to eHow, a popular website.

Wertheimer and Spector were so fascinated with the creation that they purchased the rights so that they could sell the lamp in the United States.

The invention originally was called the Astro lamp, but after the two entrepreneurs acquired the patent for the lamp, it was renamed lava.

Recently, participants in Fun with Physics Friday decided to try remaking the 1960s invention.

Fun with Physics Friday first came about in 2005, astronomy Professor Alfred Alaniz said Oct. 5.

Alaniz created activities where students could dismantle and reassemble items.

Students disassembled items at their home that they were not supposed to and their parents became frustrated with them, he said.

So he told students to bring old appliances in an attempt to repair them, and if they could not be repaired, materials would be scavenged for future projects.

This is how Fun with Physics Friday was created, Alaniz said.

Alaniz said throughout the week students come up with ideas and on Friday follow through with them.

The Sept. 28 project was trying to construct lava lamps.

The materials consisted of a burner, mineral oil, food coloring, deionized water, rubbing alcohol, thermometer, beaker, graduated cylinder, turpentine, and oil-based paint, biochemistry sophomore Sergio Loera said.

A week later, on Oct. 5, the students finally concocted a working formula for the lamp.

The formula is:

• First, mix paint with mineral oil, and then measure density.

• Next, mix alcohol and deionized water and measure density.

The density of both have to be as close as possible, but the mineral oil has to have the higher density.

• Finally, combine all the ingredients, then heat with a burner.

The students attempted to create the lava lamp 12 times before success.

Loera said a good quote he stands by is, “In order to have a great idea, you must first have a lot of ideas.”

Fun with Physics Friday is open to all students.

For more information, contact Alaniz at 210-486-0060.

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