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Molten Lava: Watch The Reaction Of Various Materials As They Encounter Red-Hot Lava, From Ice To Soda

By   |  July 3, 2014

Molten lava is a pretty cool thing. In fact, whenever you’re getting bored of Play-Doh or video games, its the perfect thing to mess around with. (At least, that’s what it would seem like with all the kids on YouTube slapping it around lately.)

I don’t know where or why this trend began, but in the last few years a LOT of people have decided to see what happens when certain things are throw at red-hot lava flows. But whether or not their intentions were in any way scientific, it still gives us a rather great opportunity to explore this fascinating, oozing wonder.

Volcanos, GoPro Cameras, And YouTube

In case you’ve forgotten your 4th-grade science, lava is the molten rock expelled by volcano eruptions that later cools and solidifies; while in its ultra hot liquefied state it can reach temperatures of 700 to 1,200 °C (1,292 to 2,192 °F).

While thousands of volcanos exist around the world, a project called Volcano World created by Oregon State University shows that Russia, Japan, Indonesia, and the United States have the highest amount of volcanoes overall. However, the most documented volcanos (lava) on the web seem to be in Hawaii (USA) – assumedly because Kilauea, one of the most active volcanos in the world, spews lava on a near-constant basis without exploding or otherwise threatening would-be photographers. However, the U.S. Geological Survey announced in June 2014 that nearby Mauna Loa was showing high levels of seismic activity and may soon erupt after 40+ years of being dormant.

With the continued acceleration of YouTube and social media, and the arrival of nifty HD consumer video cameras e.g. GoPro, more and more amateur experiments have turned up in recent years as enthusiasts and dumbasses alike try their hand at documenting lava flows not just in Hawaii, but around the world.

Comparing Molten Lava Encounters

Lava Encounters Coke Can: Bryan Lowry is a photographer from Hawaii who has documented lava scenes since 1991. Lowry’s company Lavapix sells some rather stunning aluminum prints as well as stock footage of lava. He also updates his YouTube channel regularly with the latest consumer products that he’s tossed into Hawaiian lava flows, such as the below video of a coke can that went viral earlier this year. If you’re into this sort of thing, his Chef Boyardee and Monster Energy experiments are a bit more dramatic.

Lava Encounters Ice Surface: Probably one of the more purposeful experiments on YouTube, this video was shot by Syracuse University students. Actually, it is part of a greater academic effort called the Lava Project initiated by the geology and art departments at Syracuse – a rare conjoining for modern universities that our team at CollegeTimes was extremely happy to discover. There are dozens of videos from their team on YouTube, though a bit disorganized. The project replicated basaltic lava, which is similar to the lava found in Hawaii or Iceland, and observed the reaction on natural materials such as ice and sand. (How refreshing to hear from passionate professors.)

Read more: Volcanism in New York: The Syracuse University Lava Project

Lava Encounters House: If you’ve ever wondered what happens what a lava flow runs into a house or building, this one’s for you. Admittedly, its not as captivating as watching Keifer Sutherland dodge massive fireballs in the 2014 movie Pompeii – but unfortunately, there are not many videos online documenting ancient civilizations being destroyed.

This “house” was actually called a “shelterpod” and was owned and designed by one Paddy Daly who lived in the Bellyacres eco-village in Hawaii. In 2008, lava flows inundated the area and made it impractical – and illegal – to continue living on the property.

The shelterpod was built on lava flows from the 80’s or early 90’s about 1000 feet from the coast. It was a unique design consisting of a small living pod resting on a large deck. It had an electrical system consisting of a solar panel, storage battery and an inverter to supply 120 volt AC current. Two large plastic tanks sat under the deck and were to be supplied with rain water from the roof through the gutters and downspouts which were in the process of being installed. Spectacular views from the deck and large windows could be seen in all directions.

An anonymous YouTube user named “volcanochaser” who was apparently familiar with Mr. Daly says that he was invited to the property in order to document the shelter’s final engulfment by lava on November 3, 2009.

Lava Encounters Road, Truck, AND Ocean: The below clip is one of the more well-produced videos I came across on YouTube, published by the BBC in 2012 and narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch (but really, who else could have narrated this?). Featuring stunning aerial and ground shots of – once again – Hawaii’s Kilauea, you can follow the volcano’s lava flow from its source, all the way to the ocean. Along the way, witness roads and even a truck being engulfed by lava before the burning mass reaches the water, where air pockets and rapid changes in temperature cause ear-splitting steam explosions.

Lava Encounters Scientist: Okay, not quite that bad. But in this clip, watch as a team of European scientists gets dangerously close to an erupting volcano (in Italy?). Our more sadistic readers can also check out this mini eruption that occurs from a “fake” human body make of organic waste being thrown into the Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia.

Still not had enough? Fall asleep to this strangely beautiful music video made by National Geographic featuring time lapse shots of bubbling, spewing lava.

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