What Actually Happens When You Land In Lava

Over the years playing games, you've probably fallen into lava hundreds of times. Maybe thousands. Yet for all that falling, and dying, and cursing, did you ever wonder what would actually happen if you wound up on a pool of molten rock? Like, outside of a video game?

Wired's Erik Klemetti knows what happens, and is fed up with popular media inaccurately portraying the effects of lava on the human body. From sinking to bursting into flames, games and movies have done it all, yet Klemetti - backed by science - knows the truth isn't nearly as entertaining.

While lava appears liquid, it doesn't behave like, say, water, so assumptions that the human body somehow sinks into it are incorrect. What he says happens actually gives games like Super Mario Bros. a little credit: rather than sinking, the human body "floats", or sits atop the lava, because it's far denser than most other liquids.

It'll still kill you, as being so close to such extreme heat is wont to do (not to mention the severe burns you'd sustain on any parts of your body coming into contact with lava), but you won't sink. So all those times Mario "bounces" with his arse on fire aren't as ludicrous as you may have thought.

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Die When You Fall Into Lava [Wired]


Comments

    Well. Knowing this as a kid could have definitely put an end to a few nightmares of me slowly melting into lava. Thanks a lot Space Quest.

      Funny, I always had the same dream over and over of my space janitor broom slowly floating away...

    You would probably burst into flames before you even got anywhere near the lava.

      Id point to star wars and the battle just over the lava, but Im guessing the fanboys'll come up with something

        Like the fact that it's a science fiction movie...

        They were totally cloaked in the Force and ah I really don't give a shit.

    But would a T-850 still sink?

      Thats a very good question Ben ahaha, man I love Kotaku. Oh, and would it blend?

      Arnie was a T-800 from memory. Anyway that was molten steel not lava, melted iron ore is different (just a tad) and he'd be so heavy that he would drop into faster than he'd melt.
      As for the T-1000, well liquid poly alloy is another Agent Doggett (lol)

        He was referred to both model T-800 and T-850 as well as systems model 101 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminator_(character)

    I thought in real life the flesh would be burnt off your skin before you even got near the lava

      Nope, the heat isn't _that_ bad. I've seen a live lava flow at Hawaii's big island. I was easily able to get within a meter of it. Couldn't stay there for long, but I could certainly get close. All my flesh is still intact.

    That; s worse.. I thought you went under and the amount of heat killed you very quickly.. sounds like you land on it, float around trying desperately to bury your head under to end the suffering.
    Not impressed.

    Does this mean that the Minecraft creators will have to change the way lava behaves?

      yes. because of their steadfast commitment to realistic physics.

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