La Chandelle

Paraffin. Paraffin wax was first created in 1830 by German chemist Karl von Reichenbach. Among its many uses, it first offered an especially valuable use in candle-making because it burned very cleanly and was cheaper to make than other candle materials like beeswax and tallow—the latter of which, by the way, is an interesting product. Tallow, strictly defined, consists of rendered beef or mutton suet. In practical use in commerce, though, tallow that meets specific technical criteria may contain fat from other animals like lard from pigs. It can be derived from plant sources, as well.

My curiosity about paraffin grew by leaps and bounds when I learned how broad its uses are. Paraffin has dozens of uses, from forensic investigations of shootings to food additives and from use in lava lamps to lubricant for bullets. It touches our lives in numerous ways, many of which are completely unexpected by the average person. If my interest in paraffin were considerably stronger than it is—even though it is fairly strong—I could conduct intensive research into the stuff and could write about its history and go on endlessly about its extraordinary utility. But, of course, my interest erupts explosively, only to quickly burn to dull, dry, cool ashes. It’s a shame, really, that I cannot seem to maintain a high degree of interest in many fascinating topics; if I could, I might be able to polish a reputation as a Renaissance Man. Alas, I am incapable of honing my interest to such a degree; my inquisitiveness is wide, but shallow. In the absence of an unquenchable interest in any specific subject, one cannot become an expert in anything.

By the way, the photo is non-contextual. It’s just there, for no apparent reason. I did string the beads, though, in answer to any curiosity along those lines you may have.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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