January 2015

Can you stop a lava flow?

Throughout history villages and towns have been threatened by the advance of lava flows. People can generally outpace a lava flow but sometimes lava endangers people’s homes and livelihoods. If a lava flow was heading towards your home is there anything you could do to stop it? This month we will take a look at some historical lava flow events and discuss the methods used in an attempt to control nature.

Heimaey 1973

The eruption of a volcano on the Island of Heimaey, Iceland, in 1973 is perhaps the most famous example of man versus lava. During this eruption huge lava flows threatened to engulf the town of Vestmannaeyjar and block off the towns harbour from the open sea [1].


Lava entering Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland in 1973 [2].

In an attempt to prevent the flow from entering the town earthen debris barriers were constructed to stall the spread of lava. Unfortunately the lava over topped these barriers and continued to consume the edge of the town and advance towards the harbour.

As the lava started to build out into the Harbour water was pumped onto the flow in an attempt to cool it and halt its progress. To begin with this was done using fire hoses, though these were not powerful enough to reach the upper part of the lava flow which continued to advance [1].

Boats were used to continuously pump gallons of seawater onto the leading edge of the lava flow [1]. This had a cooling effect on the lava causing it to gradually solidify. In addition to this large pipe constructions, with a greater pumping capacity, were flown in from the US and mainland Iceland, and the lava was eventually stopped before it completely closed off the harbour [1].

Got something to say?

Become a contributor: editor@experimentation-online.co.uk

Read more:

Forget Me Not

Oluwalogbon Akinnola

How did studies of the brain improve technology in 2014 and what does this mean for the New Year?

Vision, eyes and sight: Human Infrared Vision

Johanna Bischof

How two halves coming together allow us to see more than we knew before.

Egyptian Blue – an ancient mystery for modern technology

Daniel Cornwell

How the world's oldest pigment could solve some of our modern problems

From the archives: Does greener architecture promote healthier living?

Grainne McGill

Advances in building design need to take proper account of social, environmental and economic interests - then we will make the built environment work for us and not against us.

The Naked Audience: Overcoming Stage Fright

Thomas Richards

Thomas investigates stage fright, the mechanisms behind it and how to overcome it

Also in...

Columnists

Scientific Art

Jessica Brady

Find out how art can be created using a bit of science.

Life Sciences

How do we learn languages?

Lydia France

Language within our brains is an intricate and complex system, and one that doesn't always function properly.

Plants have feelings too

Luke Souter

Luke shows plants in a whole new light.

Physical Sciences

Art forgers, you cannot hide from science...

Kirsty Skeene

How science can help art historians to identify the fakes

Ionic liquids: 'designer solvents'

Paul Brown

With uses in processes from carbon dioxide capture to rocket propulsion, the properties of these new solvents can be chemically tailored to suit each specific problem

Diamond: A cut above all the rest

Christine Lowson

Diamond one of the most glamorous materials on the planet, but did you also know how many uses it has other than making your fingers sparkle. Find out how it is being used to help treat blindness as well as treat cancer!

Engineering

Repairing the fictional fractures between art and science

Joseph Lindley

This month Joe talks about his work in Design Fiction and how it crosses some interesting borders between Science and Art.

Just plastic and carbon

Ludwig Svensson

Used in boats, speakers and the latest aircraft, composite materials aren't just lighter - they can also be tailored to give an array of unexpected properties.

Psychology

Neuroscience, art, and neuro-aesthetics

Angharad Williams

New writer to Experimentation Angharad discusses how Science and the Arts can combine to facilitate each other especially in the field of Neuro-aesthetics

Attachment Theory : From the Cradle to the Grave

Melanie Fitzgerald

Melanie reviews Attachment Theory focusing on how this influential framework applies to romantic relationships