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Old 11-11-2019, 02:15 PM
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What would happen if you fell into a volcano?


In the last few weeks, my late-night channel-surfing has treated me to Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Lost World, Return of the King, and Joe Versus the Volcano. Which set me to wondering:

Let's assume a Hollywood-style volcano, with steep cliffs surrounding the crater, and a pool of magma below.

It's Hollywood-style magma, thicker than water, thinner than molasses, and hot enough to glow in the orange-to-yellow range.

If you slipped, or a rival scientist pushed you, or a tribe of natives sacrificed you to their deity, what would happen?

Would you be poisoned by toxic gasses?
Would you die of asphyxiation when hot gasses seared your lungs?
Would you be alive when you hit the magma?
Would you be conscious when you hit the magma?
When you hit the magma, would you splatter across the surface, or would you plunge into the depths?
Would you sink or float?
How long would it take for you to burn?
If you were still alive and conscious when you hit, how long would you last?
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Old 11-11-2019, 02:27 PM
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Disposal of organic waste in Erta Ale Volcano lava lake causes violent eruption (Youtube)
Because Science:Why Death by Lava Is Much Worse Than in the Movies (Youtube)
You wouldn't sink, it's molten rock, after all.

Last edited by running coach; 11-11-2019 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 11-11-2019, 02:47 PM
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Thank you. The bit about the Leidenfrost Effect was interesting.

I figured when the water in your body turned to steam, it would be explosive, but the explosion in your first link was a lot bigger than I would have guessed.
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Old 11-11-2019, 02:50 PM
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The question has been analyzed more than I care to think about. You wouldn't sink like Gollum did but various unpleasantnesses like toxic gases would fry and poison your lungs while you were burning up. So it would be a relatively quick but not very desirable death.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 11-11-2019, 03:02 PM
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I've been on active volcanoes, and at the right time and place the fumes will kill you before you get to the rim. But if you're unfortunate enough to fall into a red-hot magma reservoir, you'd probably remain conscious until you hit the magma, then you'd die VERY quickly.
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Old 11-11-2019, 03:14 PM
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If you were lucky, the impact of hitting the magma would knock you out. It would, after all, be a rather sudden stop. So a long fall might not be too painful.

If you are unlucky, it won't. Your death would be quick but exceedingly awful.
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Old 11-11-2019, 03:56 PM
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Although Gollum's death scene is cool looking, it always bothers me since I know he should be sizzling like Mongolian barbecue on top of the lave and killed almost instantly instead of sinking gradually while remaining conscious until the moment his head submerges.

It also annoys me when people almost fall into a lava lake, or have to make their way across one on a thin bridge just a short distance above it. Aside from the fumes, the intense heat should cause them to pass out and tumble in.
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:37 PM
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My heart would probably give out long before I hit the surface; something that has comforted me flying and in high places as well. There are times when a cardiac condition can be a plus.
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Although Gollum's death scene is cool looking, it always bothers me since I know he should be sizzling like Mongolian barbecue on top of the lave and killed almost instantly instead of sinking gradually while remaining conscious until the moment his head submerges.

It also annoys me when people almost fall into a lava lake, or have to make their way across one on a thin bridge just a short distance above it. Aside from the fumes, the intense heat should cause them to pass out and tumble in.
What, the duel on Mustafar wasn’t realistic?
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Old 11-11-2019, 08:43 PM
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What, the duel on Mustafar wasn’t realistic?
That's exactly one of the scenes I had in mind. They're fighting just a few feet above 1,800 degree rock, and have hardly broken a sweat.Basically they are fighting inside a blast furnace while hardly noticing it. Jedi or not, they should have been flash-fried.

Same thing when Frodo and Sam are rescued from Mt. Doom.

Last edited by Colibri; 11-11-2019 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 11-11-2019, 10:06 PM
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Although Gollum's death scene is cool looking, it always bothers me since I know he should be sizzling like Mongolian barbecue on top of the lave and killed almost instantly
Why would he be killed "almost instantly?" The skull provides some pretty good thermal protection for the brain, at least for a few seconds. He would be conscious for a few seconds, probably, in extreme agony.
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Old 11-11-2019, 10:35 PM
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Why would he be killed "almost instantly?" The skull provides some pretty good thermal protection for the brain, at least for a few seconds. He would be conscious for a few seconds, probably, in extreme agony.
Most people would consider "a few seconds" to be "almost instantly." In any case, as RickJay said, just the fall, hundreds of feet onto rock, would probably be enough to kill him. But Gollum is still alive, with his eyes open even when his head is almost entirely submerged in molten lava. Your skull isn't going to protect your brain from a temperature of 1,800 degrees "for a few seconds" when it's nearly immersed.

Last edited by Colibri; 11-11-2019 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:14 PM
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If I fell into a volcano, Pele would be rather annoyed:

• She likes 'em younger

• She likes her boys virginal

• Insufficient ceremony
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:25 PM
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I'm not sure a not-human-to-begin with creature that has survived far more lifetimes than he should due to the influence of an evil magic ring being killed in a possibly-evil volcano used by a fallen angel to craft said magic ring is a good standard of comparison for what would happen in reality.
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Old 11-12-2019, 01:02 AM
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Why would he be killed "almost instantly?" The skull provides some pretty good thermal protection for the brain, at least for a few seconds. He would be conscious for a few seconds, probably, in extreme agony.
More likely the skull will burst from steam pressure, but that's besides the point because he'd be death from trauma from falling several hundred feet into plain water let alone molten rock.
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Old 11-12-2019, 01:19 AM
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If I fell into a volcano, Pele would be rather annoyed:

• She likes 'em younger

• She likes her boys virginal

• Insufficient ceremony
Agreed. If Madame Pele wants something, she'll take it on her terms.

FYI, Madame Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of volcanos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pele_(deity)

Here's a story of a house that was spared three times during the lava flows. https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/...s-in-30-years/
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:15 AM
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There is one volcano where you might survive in agony for a little longer than most...not much longer. mind you. But you might pierce the surface (the lava can be less viscous than water), and be boiled rather than flash-burned.

Last edited by MrDibble; 11-12-2019 at 02:19 AM.
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Old 11-12-2019, 04:30 AM
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I'm not sure a not-human-to-begin with creature that has survived far more lifetimes than he should due to the influence of an evil magic ring being killed in a possibly-evil volcano used by a fallen angel to craft said magic ring is a good standard of comparison for what would happen in reality.
This, I mean he was in possession of said ring at the point of his magma-interface incident. That has to count for something.
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Old 11-12-2019, 07:00 AM
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In Fantasy and sci fi, the impossible is easier to believe than the implausible. Gollum temporarily surviving the fall and the heat due to the ring, sure. Sinking down into rock, not so much. That said I didn't notice it up until this thread.
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:51 AM
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"If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone."
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:31 PM
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That accurately represents how my moods work. Totally calm until presented with a minor annoyance....
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:43 PM
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In Fantasy and sci fi, the impossible is easier to believe than the implausible. Gollum temporarily surviving the fall and the heat due to the ring, sure. Sinking down into rock, not so much. That said I didn't notice it up until this thread.
Nah, the trick is that Mount doom wasn't a normal volcano and that wasn't actually lava. It was some hot magic liquid.
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Old 11-12-2019, 03:08 PM
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Even at 20 feet from red-hot lava I was afraid my eyebrows would singe off. And standing on hard, cooled lava, I could still feel the the soles of my shoes getting tacky in places, as they started to melt. And hanging in a helicopter, several feet over a lava pool, it was like being in a blast furnace. That shit is HOT!
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Old 11-12-2019, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by smiling bandit View Post
I'm not sure a not-human-to-begin with creature that has survived far more lifetimes than he should due to the influence of an evil magic ring being killed in a possibly-evil volcano used by a fallen angel to craft said magic ring is a good standard of comparison for what would happen in reality.
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Originally Posted by Novelty Bobble View Post
This, I mean he was in possession of said ring at the point of his magma-interface incident. That has to count for something.
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Nah, the trick is that Mount doom wasn't a normal volcano and that wasn't actually lava. It was some hot magic liquid.
The reason Gollum reacted that way instead of realistically wasn't because of magic, it was because of CGI. "A computer did it!" is just as good a way to explain something as "A wizard did it!"

Sure, you can fanwank magical reasons why Gollum might have reacted differently to lava. (Just as you can suppose that Obi-Wan and Anakin were somehow using The Force to shield themselves from the heat - although that doesn't explain why Anakin went up like a Tiki Torch at the end even when he wasn't much closer to the lava than before.)

But the real reason is the opposite of magical: He behaved that way because that's what an ordinary person, with no actual experience with lava, would expect to happen. Because it flows so fast, we expect lava to behave like water or maybe hot oatmeal, since we have no idea of its actual density. And since we've never encountered it, we have no idea how frikken hot it actually is. We don't think about him being protected by magic because we see the scene as realistic instead of impossible.

Last edited by Colibri; 11-12-2019 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 11-13-2019, 11:27 PM
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Now I want to know why panache45 was hanging over hot lava in a helicopter.

Panache double-O 45 perhaps?

I’ve always thought that ”artist” story was just cover.
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Last edited by Northern Piper; 11-13-2019 at 11:28 PM.
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Old 11-14-2019, 01:19 AM
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We don't think about him being protected by magic because we see the scene as realistic instead of impossible.
You’ve just described the premise behind magical realism!
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Old 11-14-2019, 09:32 AM
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:07 AM
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Sure, you can fanwank magical reasons why Gollum might have reacted differently to lava. (Just as you can suppose that Obi-Wan and Anakin were somehow using The Force to shield themselves from the heat - although that doesn't explain why Anakin went up like a Tiki Torch at the end even when he wasn't much closer to the lava than before.)
The explanation for that (canon, I believe) is that since Anakin had lost both legs and one arm, he now had fewer midichlorians available to him, so no longer had enough Force strength to shield himself.
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:23 AM
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You wouldn't sink, it's molten rock, after all.
No, that's wrong. Google says magma has a density 2.80 g/cm3. At room temperature, mercury is 13.6 g/cm3. Things dropped into mercury will submerge briefly and then emerge to the top.

Naturally I'm talking about dropping things from low height. If you drop things into any liquid from a great height, then you get a sudden traumatic stop depending on density and viscosity.
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:39 AM
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No, that's wrong. Google says magma has a density 2.80 g/cm3. At room temperature, mercury is 13.6 g/cm3. Things dropped into mercury will submerge briefly and then emerge to the top.
If they emerge again to the top, then they don't sink.
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:51 AM
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Nah, the trick is that Mount doom wasn't a normal volcano and that wasn't actually lava. It was some hot magic liquid.
So...McDonald's coffee?
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:13 AM
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If they emerge again to the top, then they don't sink.
I am trying to be clear that submergence definitely will happen, possibly complete submergence, although temporarily.

If you want to press a semantic quibble that this is different from sinking, you win, the victory is yours.
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Old 11-14-2019, 12:26 PM
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That's exactly one of the scenes I had in mind. They're fighting just a few feet above 1,800 degree rock, and have hardly broken a sweat.Basically they are fighting inside a blast furnace while hardly noticing it. Jedi or not, they should have been flash-fried.
That’s literally what happened to Anakin. He never touched the lava. He was several meters away.
The fight scene can attributed to the Force or some kind of shielding technology. But when that was lost, he ended up extra crispy.
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Old 11-14-2019, 12:32 PM
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Even at 20 feet from red-hot lava I was afraid my eyebrows would singe off. And standing on hard, cooled lava, I could still feel the the soles of my shoes getting tacky in places, as they started to melt. And hanging in a helicopter, several feet over a lava pool, it was like being in a blast furnace. That shit is HOT!
Dude, did you piss off a mob boss?
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Old 11-18-2019, 10:40 AM
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Would you be poisoned by toxic gasses?
Volcanoes being what they are, there's a good chance you'd be inhaling toxic fumes even before you jumped/were pushed off the cliff edge. If not, you'd be inhaling greater and greater concentrations on the way down, but these things take time to have their effect on your physiology. ISTM that for any reasonable cliff height (and therefore descent time), you'd probably still be conscious at impact.

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Would you die of asphyxiation when hot gasses seared your lungs?
Assuming the height of your fall was inadequate to cause death or unconsciousness due to impact, I'm pretty sure this is the thing that would end your consciousness. a few deep breaths would end oxygen transfer to your bloodstream, and your heart would soon be pumping oxygen-free blood to your brain; I expect you'd be unconscious within 20 seconds or so.

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When you hit the magma, would you splatter across the surface, or would you plunge into the depths?
Magma is liquid, but it's high-density liquid. Water is 1 gram per cc, and as noted upthread, magma is about 2.8 times that. People who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge suffer massive blunt-trauma injuries when they hit the water 200 feet below. Since magma is about 2.8 times the density, you'd expect similar injuries with an impact velocity only 1/2.8 as high as what GGB jumpers experience; that translates to a cliff-fall height of just 120 feet. If you're falling into magma from that kind of height, yes, you'll submerge, and yes, you'll float back up to the top, but you'll have a lot of broken bones and various other severe damage.


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How long would it take for you to burn?
To what level of completion? Cremations take a long time to reduce a body to ash, on the order of a couple of hours. I would expect something similar for direct exposure to magma, since the temperatures are in the same ballpark.
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Old 11-18-2019, 11:17 AM
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Since every magma composition is unique there might be some mitigating factors as noted above. One thing that hasn't specifically been mentioned is H2S. If you're breathing before you hit the magma, and there is more than 500 ppm H2S it' will pretty much instantly render you unconscious (which is probably your best outcome if you're rocketing in a swan dive at 9.8 m/sec sq) toward immanent death. So, there's that.

More fun reading here: https://www.ivhhn.org/information/in...rogen-sulphide
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:20 PM
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If I fell into a volcano, Pele would be rather annoyed:

• She likes 'em younger

• She likes her boys virginal

• Insufficient ceremony
Pele would only be annoyed with you if you couldnt put a ball on target from inside the box. And today I found out that Pele was a she. Those Brazilians!!
  #38  
Old 11-18-2019, 06:40 PM
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If you were lucky, the impact of hitting the magma would knock you out. It would, after all, be a rather sudden stop. So a long fall might not be too painful.
Molten rock is much more dense than water.

A very sudden stop.

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If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone.
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