Lava lamps: 50 years old and still groovy

Updated 04 September 2013

Lava lamps: 50 years old and still groovy

Call them ’60s relics or hippy home accessories, lava lamps have been casting their dim but groovy light on interiors for half a century, having hit British shelves 50 years ago on Tuesday.
A British company began marketing their original creation as an “exotic conversation piece” in 1963. Since then, millions of models of the much-copied invention have been sold worldwide.
The design was created by British inventor Edward Craven-Walker, who was inspired by an odd-looking liquid-filled egg timer he saw in a restaurant in southwest Britain.
The former World War II pilot then spent years transforming the concept into a home lighting accessory, having recognized the potential for such an invention during anything-goes ‘60s Britain.
“Everything was getting a little bit psychedelic,” said Christine Baehr, the second of Craven-Walker’s four wives. “There was Carnaby Street and The Beatles and things launching into space and he thought it was quite funky and might be something to launch into.”
Britain’s “Love Generation” saw an affinity between the fluorescent lava flow’s unpredictable nature and the easy-going, drug-induced spirit of the decade.
Craven-Walker’s first model, the Astro Lamp, also reflected the technological innovation and imagination of the time, shaped like a sci-fi rocket. Soon other models, such as the Astro Mini and the Astro Nordic, emerged from Craven-Walker’s Crestworth company, building on his original concept.
Baehr recalls a memorable moment when they were told that Beatles drummer Ringo Starr had bought one of their lamps. “That was a great, ‘Ah we’ve made it,’ moment,” she said.
Despite the decline of British manufacturing, with numerous well-known brands dying or moving to countries with cheaper labor costs, lava lamp making company Mathmos has remained at their factory in southwest Britain still employing Craven-Walker’s tried and tested formula.
“I think it’s really special to manufacture something that’s been invented and made in Britain, in Britain for 50 years,” said Cressida Granger, who became involved with Crestworth in 1989, renamed it Mathmos in 1992 and gained sole ownership in 1999.
US rights to manufacture the lamps are held by Haggerty Enterprises Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
Granger went on to enjoy a second wave of success for Craven-Walker’s invention during the 1990s, as a new generation of consumers, obsessed with retro British trends, lit their rooms with ‘60s lava lamp designs.
Craven-Walker, whose other enthusiasms included nudism, died in 2000.
Lava lamps are based on two liquids of slightly different density which will not mix. The heavier liquid sinks to the bottom, but when heated by the lamp light its density decreases and it floats to the top.
His invention has had roles in music videos and on television, having originally appeared in popular British television shows during the ‘60s such as “The Prisoner” and “Doctor Who.”
“I think it’s the motion within the lamp,” said Anthony Voz, a collector of Mathmos products. “The way that it flows, how it’s anti-repetitive, how it’s a mixture of light and chaos blending together. It kind of pulls people in and before you know it, you’ve spent 15 minutes looking at it.”


Bosnian ‘energy pyramids’ boosted by tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s visits

Updated 25 November 2020

Bosnian ‘energy pyramids’ boosted by tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s visits

  • Tennis star Novac Djokovic has made two trips this year, hailing the site as a ‘paradise on earth’

VISOKO, Bosnia and Herzegovina: With tree-covered slopes that rise to a pointed summit, the mountain overlooking the Bosnian town of Visoko resembles any other ordinary hillside in the Balkan state.
Yet thousands of yearly visitors – including high-profile stars like Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic – don’t see it that way.
Despite scientists’ efforts to debunk the claims, large numbers of people still believe the hill is part of an ancient man-made pyramid complex with healing powers.
Djokovic, who is known for his new-age spiritual interests, has made two trips this year, hailing the site as a “paradise on earth.”
The mountain is now part of a controversial pyramid park founded by Semir Osmanagic, a 60-year-old self-styled explorer who “discovered” the site just outside of Sarajevo in 2005.
“I saw this hill covered with fir trees and vegetation, its slopes perfectly oriented toward the cardinal points,” Osmanagic, wearing a leather jacket and Indiana Jones-style hat, said on a recent weekend while leading a tour group through the site.
“It was obvious to me that it was not a natural hill but the construction” of a “technologically superior civilization,” he said, insisting it is the “largest and oldest pyramid ever built.”
Archaeologists have long ago disputed this theory as pseudo-science, saying the hill is a natural geological structure.
In a letter to Bosnian authorities in 2006, European archaeologists denounced the support given to a “cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public” that “has no place in the world of genuine science.”
But this did not prevent Osmanagic, previously a US-based businessman, from carrying out “archaeological excavations” on the hill with hundreds of volunteers from abroad.
He bought a piece of surrounding land, which includes a network of tunnels he says emit a curative energy force, and a few years later opened the park through his “Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun” foundation.
Today, the park is buzzing with visitors, who have come in even higher numbers since two recent trips from Djokovic.
In July and October, Djokovic made pilgrimages to the park and invited “all athletes” to take advantage of the healthy oxygen levels.
“I know there are many doubts and dilemmas about the authenticity (of the place),” he said in October.
But “in order to fully understand what is going on here... you have to come.”
After a quiet spring subdued by the pandemic, weekend crowds are back at the park, consisting mostly of visitors from the region.
“The beginning of the season was catastrophic, but since Djokovic has been here, it’s been a joy,” says Nermin Alihodzic, 47, who sells tourists colorful mini-pyramids and pieces of quartz.
While the government stopped backing the park over a decade ago, local authorities have helped finance the construction of roads, parking lots and other infrastructure to encourage tourists.
A five-euro ($5.94) entry fee for the whole park also includes access to the underground tunnel network which Osmanagic claims emit healing electromagnetic waves.
In his tour of the park, Osmanagic takes groups down to the chambers, urging them to hold their hands over a smooth rock and feel the “energy” rising.
Dzenana Halepovic, a 67-year-old from Sarajevo, is a frequent visitor.
In the tunnels “I feel good, I breathe well, I feel light. I simply feel like I’m receiving energy there,” she said.
For Enver Imamovic, a professor emeritus of archaeology at the University of Sarajevo, the project is pure scam.
The tunnels are likely “remnants of an ancient gold mine” while wedges of stones on the hillside, which believers consider to be the building blocks of the pyramid, are “nothing more than natural geological formations,” he said.
“Everything that is said about the pyramids is absolutely unacceptable.”
Founder Osmanagic has also been promoting the site as a place to “boost immunity” during the coronavirus pandemic.
While he insists no cures are guaranteed, he cites other alleged miracles in which people have been healed of ailments like hypertension, diabetes or even cancer after a trip to the underground tunnels.