The Beautiful Candle

Michael Faraday's lectures at the Royal Institution in London - "The Chemical History of the Candle" : A candle is beautiful. "Beauty means not the best-looking things, but the best-acting thing." A candle is beautiful because its functioning elegantly and efficiently rests upon a wide range of universal laws. The heat of the flame melts the wax while drawing upward currents of air to cool the wax at the edge, thus creating a cup for the molten wax. The pool of wax remains horizontal because of "the same force of gravity which holds worlds together." Capillary action draws melted wax up the wick from the "cup" at the bottom of the wick to the flame at the top, while the flame's heat trggers a chemical reaction in the wax that sustains the flame.

Faraday said the beauty of the cancel lies in the intricate play of scientific principles upon which it depands, and in the economy with which it knits them together.