Wait! The ground is filled with scorching lava! Have you ever shouted those words on the playground? Many children enjoy pretending that the ground is covered in bubbling lava, forcing them to jump or swing on the monkey bars to avoid falling into the fiery substance.
While pretending is fun, real lava is actually quite easy to avoid as it typically moves very slowly. However, it is extremely hot. If you were to fall into hot lava, it would not be a pleasant experience. The lava’s intense heat, which can reach temperatures over 2,000º F, would melt and burn your skin!
Lava is actually molten rock. It forms deep beneath the Earth’s surface, often more than 100 miles underground, where the temperatures are high enough to melt rock. When magma, as it is called underground, makes its way to the Earth’s surface through a volcanic eruption, it is then referred to as lava. Sometimes, explosive eruptions can propel lava over great distances. However, most eruptions produce slow-moving lava flows that may only cover a few yards per minute at most.
The most common type of magma found deep beneath the Earth’s surface is basalt. Basalt makes up a significant portion of the ocean floor and is frequently seen during volcanic eruptions in Hawaii. When basaltic magma reaches the Earth’s surface, it erupts as basaltic lava.
If you were a villain in a cartoon and wanted to conquer the world, hot lava might be a useful weapon. However, harnessing the power of a volcano is extremely challenging. Is there any way to create your own lava?
Unfortunately, you cannot simply throw rocks into your kitchen oven and melt them into lava. The oven in your home does not generate enough heat for such a process. Of course, if you were a cartoon villain, you might have access to lasers or other tricks up your sleeve.
Although it may sound unbelievable, humans have actually been able to create their own lava without the aid of a volcano. Scientists and students at Syracuse University, who are part of the Syracuse University Lava Project (and are definitely not villains of any kind!), have successfully used industrial furnaces to melt crushed basalt gravel from Wisconsin and produce their own lava!
Once the lava is created, it is poured onto a thick slab of solid ice to form a lava flow that can extend for a few yards. Faculty, students, and even members of the public are invited to witness the lava flow up close.
The primary goal of creating the lava is to conduct scientific experiments and study basaltic lava. Normally, scientists can only observe lava eruptions, which occur infrequently and often without warning. By creating their own lava, they can perform controlled experiments like never before.
In between experiments, children are often allowed to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the hot lava. In addition to its scientific purposes, art students have also been given the opportunity to use molds and create captivating sculptures.
Give It a Try
Today’s Wonder of the Day has certainly turned up the heat! Learn even more about lava by trying out the following activities with a friend or family member: