MacGyver Lava Lamp


Some moons ago, I purchases a USB lava lamp from It’s an entertaining, though completely useless, little toy. I’ve had it sitting around the house pretty much since I bought it, and haven’t paid it too much attention. I plugged it in last night, thinking it might make a handy nightlight for Tayler (who is still terrified to sleep in the dark), but alas, it didn’t work!

I took the actual light out from the base of the unit, and looked at it for a bit. There was a very tiny bulb, which presumably had a broken filament. I then looked inside one of the little LED keychain flashlights I acquired at OSCON this year. After a bit more examination, I decided to see if I could connect the LED to the power cables in the lava lamp. To my surprise, plugging the USB connector into my laptop caused the LED to light up! I now have a blue lava lamp!

This is my very first hardware hack. It’s certainly nothing like the fine folks at MAKE create. I usually just skim over most of their stuff, because I’m not terribly interested in actually making most of them. I’m also terribly afraid of electricity and soldering, so some of even their basic projects give me the willies. Indeed, I was probably way more cautious than was necessary with respect to the miniscule amount of electricity flowing through the USB cable.

Now I can’t decide whether to put the lamp into Tayler’s room as a nightlight, or to take it to work with me where I can admire it all day long!

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