What Did the Science Teacher Say to the Lava Lamp?

Don’t be ridiculous, lava lamps can’t talk! What, does it have a magic genie inside of it?! Absurd! But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a story about it.

Chemistry is a very boring subject in my own personal opinion. I like the sciences, but I’m not a big fan of the really tiny stuff (like atoms), and learning about how they’re made up. I much prefer physics and finding out things like: how hard would I have to kick this soccer ball to make it hit someone in the head standing 200 feet away. See, those are the fun problems!

But my Chemistry teacher loved his job, and he loved chemistry, even if only four people in the class knew what was going on. Mr. Waterloo was his name, and his family owned the ice cream shop just down the street from our school. Except, oddly, most of the time their ice cream machine wasn’t working, so they sold cupcakes instead. Eventually they changed the name from The Milky Malt, to Candy’s Cupcakes. (Candy is his wife). They are scheduled to appear on Cupcake Wars next summer.

“What do cupcakes have to do with lava lamps?” you ask me. Nothing I say, absolutely nothing.

So, as takeaway from my previous rant, Chemistry class was not the most exciting hour of the day; even if Mr. Waterloo wore some pretty kicking loafers. (Which is not to make fun of him—he did look pretty sharp).

However, movie days were fun no matter the class you were in, and in Mr. Waterloo’s class, if you are a good student and you do your work well, he doesn’t give a crap if you’re not watching the movie as long as you keep your trap shut. So while the rest of the class watched a thrilling documentary on the Table of Elements and its impact on our lives, Maxine, Rupee, and I, were pondering aloud the inner workings of a lava lamp. How do they move? What is the goo made out of? And if you should touch the lava, would it burn your skin like acid until all that is left is a nub? These were all valid questions, and we were quite curious to the answer.

While the movie was playing, we snickered over Maxine’s suggestion that the lava was actually made up of Play-Dough that was floating up and down in the jar. For a girl with two scientist parents, this answered seemed pretty…unscientific. Then Rupee suggested that it was a matter of pressure; as more water flowed to one end, it sent the goo back to the other side. But this, too, did not seem quite right. I was just about to recommend Maxine sneakily look it up on her iPhone, when Mr. Waterloo interrupted us from behind. (I think I may have forgotten to mention that we were sitting right in front of his desk. He could hear everything we were saying).

“Girls,” he sighed, “you really should pay more attention to the film. Or, at least, pretend like you are or the other kids will think I’m giving you special attention.”

“Yeah,” piped up Joel from the seat next to Rupee’s. “We wouldn’t want that.”

Maxine stuck out her tongue at him—she has a very short tongue—and Joel rolled his eyes, laughing.

“Alright,” we consented, frowning. We really did not want to watch the movie.

Fifteen or so minutes passed, and most of the class was asleep with their heads down on their desks, when we heard Mr. Waterloo whisper: “Psst, psst.” All three of us turned to face him and he passed us a sheet of paper.

“What is this?” Rupee asked, snatching it away from him.

“It’s how a lava lamp works.” He said smiling. For a moment we all looked at one another, jaws dropping in surprise, until laughs bubbled their way to the surface. As it turns out, Mr. Waterloo was just as curious as we were on the workings of a lava lamp, even the non magical kinds, and he had printed the Google results.

“It’s a wax mixture!” he said excitedly. We had already talked about mixtures earlier in the year. “There are hot plates at the bottom of the lamp so the wax rises as it heats, then cools near the surface, sinking back down again; back and forth, over and over. Interesting right?”

Would you call us total losers if I said that it, in fact, was interesting? Even Joel was paying attention by the end of it, though he didn’t understand why we had been interested in the first place.

“This would make for a fun experiment.” Rupee said to Mr. Waterloo.

He leaned back into his chair. “I don’t think so. Now, you really should watch the movie.”

Thankfully, however, the bell rang only minutes later and we escaped into the parking lot as our school day wound to a close; releasing us with the promise of home, food, and sleep.

There were no more thoughts of lava lamps or science class. I guess the gel-infused hippie lamps were just too cool for my school.




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