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Monday 25 May 2015

Making Your own Lava Lamp!

   Yesterday I posted a piece about Lava Lamps being made on the QI television programme. And in having done so I am reminded about Johnny Prisoner, who back in April conducted his own experiment in making his own Lava lamp. What follows is Johnny Prisoner’s report on that said experiment

I’ve been reading in a number of newspaper and one particular food magazine which I picked up from Tesco, about how to make your own Lava Lamp. Well I couldn’t let this opportunity slip me by. So having gathered the recommended material, a clear plastic bottle of the 2 litre variety, a small bottle of red food colouring, a bottle of vegetable oil, and Alka-Seltzer. So armed with full instructions, I put on my white lab coat and safety glasses, and eagerly set about the experiment. I filled the bottle with two thirds of water from the kitchen tap, and set about filling the remaining third with vegetable oil. However this did seem rather excessive, and perhaps I thought I would have been better off with a smaller bottle. So instead I added about an inch of the oil. Then I added a few drops of the food colouring, but this was completely inadequate, so I added more. I had to wait a few minutes in order to allow the food colouring to pass through the vegetable oil, which remained on top of the water, and settle at the bottom of the bottle. Then I broke one Alka-Seltzer tablet into quarters and dropped it into the bottle and watched eagerly for the required result. Sad to report, the result was not as predicted. Yes the quarter Alka-Seltzer tablet did fizz, bubbling up in the water and turning the water red with the red food colouring, but the oil remained on top of the water. The idea is that the oil mixes with the water and the Alka-Seltzer’s effervescent effect causes the Lava lamp effect. It didn’t! I then added the other three quarters of the tablet with only the same result. So then I had the bright spark of an idea. I screwed the cap on and turned the bottle upside down in order to make the oil mix with the water, in order to produce the desired effect, and at the same time adding two whole Alka-Seltzer tablets to the mixture. The result was disappointing to say the least! The oil returned immediately to the top of the water, and did not play any part in the experiment whatsoever, it just sat there, leaving the Alka-Seltzer to have an effervescence effect on the coloured water. In short the Lava Lamp experiment was a complete and utter failure!
   So then I had another bright idea, perhaps the experiment needed to be scaled down. Perhaps there was too much water for the Alka-Seltzer to have any real effect. In short, a smaller bottle might be the order of the day. The only trouble was I didn’t have a smaller bottle, but I did have a smaller receptacle at hand, a clear tumbler! So filling the tumbler two thirds with water from the tap, and adding a small amount of the vegetable oil, and a few drops of the red food colouring and allowing time for the colouring to pass through the oil to the bottom of the tumbler, I added half of one Alka-Seltzer tablet, and watched and waited. The result being, that the Alka-Seltzer fizzed away and rose up through the vegetable oil creating a foam on the top. However upon closer examination, I observed that the Alka-Seltzer was having an effervescence effect upon the vegetable oil, but not enough to create anything near the Lava Lamp effect as suggested in a diagram accompanying the instructions. And after two minutes the foam had completely dissipated. But that the Alka-Seltzer was still having its effervescent effect on the oil! Disappointed I sat and wrote up my notes for the experiment. I did not go back to the drawing board, not to the beginning. It would appear that chemistry is not my forte!! It is possible that a different result may be achieved under actual laboratory conditions. However my two attempts were complete and utter failures! As this is supposed to be “school-boy” science, perhaps I am too old! The real nitty-gritty problem is, that the oil refused to drop any lower into the water, or form any sort of individual blobs.
   Oh well, at the very least I now have a good supply of Alka-Seltzer tablets left in the box, which will come in handy for the morning after the night before, when I go on a drinking binge with Tommy Moke.

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