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Frigid Cold on the Way No Match for Lava Experiment at Syracuse University

There’s another frigid burst of weather chilling down Syracuse.  But one science experiment is really heating things up… by about 2,100 degrees on the SU hill.  There was one ‘hot spot’ to be found on Monday near Manley Field House.  An outdoor furnace with a bright, orange glow.


Credit John Smith / WAER News
Lava poured from a furnace outside nearby SU's Manley Field House.

Syracuse Professor Robert Wysocki poured lava onto a sheet of ice.  Wysocki and a team of researchers simulated what happens when volcanoes erupt near glaciers.

“So, this is as close as you can get to working with real lava.  In fact, it is real lava.  If you had a neighbor who is a Volcanologist and you gave him a piece of rock, that when the lava... they would say you were somewhere in the world where there was an active volcano, if this is in fact fresh.  And it is fresh!”

Credit John Smith / WAER News
Crews here prepare blocks of ice and hard packed snow to stop molten lava.

The lava used is called ‘trap rock’.  It comes from Wisconsin and is over 1.2 billion years old.  SU is partnering with NASA.  The experiment reveals what conditions are like on planets with volcanic activity.  After all, it’s a lot cheaper and a lot safer than going to Mars, as SU student Allison Kirsch explains. 
 “It’s a pretty controlled experiment.  We’ve got, you know, shovels on hand in case of any breakouts in the trough or anything like that.  We’re all wearing leathers to keep safe.”  

Credit John Smith / WAER News
Lava comes rushing out of the furnace.

You could also hear the sizzle of the lava being poured.
A sight the professor just can’t get enough of.
“What you saw today I’ve done well over a 100 times.  And every time it comes out, I’m like wow, that’s lava.  Like, I’m making lava.  It’s crazy, right?  It’s crazy!” 

Credit John Smith / WAER News
Professor Wysocki (left) and members of his team (right).