A group of students from the Geology Department recently traveled to Syracuse University to watch 600lb of lava being poured over slopes of various angles. The students are enrolled in GEOL248 "Introduction to Volcanism" run by Dr. David Kratzmann. The LAVA Project is a collaboration between sculptor Bob Wysocki and geologist Jeff Karson at Syracuse University.
The 600lb batch of basaltic lava was produced in a large crucible in the Department of Art and enables geology students to conduct small-scale experiments on lava properties and art students to learn about the properties for potential sculpture projects.
With the composition of the lava fixed (basalt) and the initial temperature recorded (~1370C or ~2500F for this experiment), parameters such as viscosity can be calculated and compared to theoretical models, flow rates measured, and flow morphologies (such as ropey textures) observed.
The SLU students had a great time watching the pour and collected a lot of interesting samples including lava bubbles, Pele's hair, and ribbon 'candy' (long strands of basaltic glass). These observations are invaluable to students and build upon video footage of lava flows and a mathematical understanding of viscosity and fluid dynamics discussed in class.