At a certain moment in the late 1960s, the lava lamp came to symbolize all things countercultural and psychedelic—although, as you might expect, those who basked in its lurid glow sometimes had trouble recalling exactly why. It’s like asking, “Why did we like Jackson Pollock?” says Wavy Gravy, the longtime peace activist and Grateful Dead sidekick. “Because it was amazing! It causes synapses in your brain to loosen up.”
The mesmerizing light fixture, which turns 50 this year, has risen and sunk and shifted its shape in the cultural consciousness for decades. The lamp was invented by Edward Craven Walker, a British accountant whose other claim to fame was making underwater nudist films. He was passing the time in a pub when he noticed a homemade egg timer crafted from a cocktail shaker filled with alien-looking liquids bubbling on a stove top. - Continue reading atSmithsonian.com.