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June 15, 2024
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On Lava

“Lava, that mucus expell’d when a volcano’s bowels have been insufficiently soothed by raine, is fyre which has been turned to gelatin and, when cool’d, is therefore edible.” —Sir Isaac Newton, “Philosophiæ Geologica,” 1689

“Scientists have long held that magma is different from lava—that magma is molten rock beneath the Earth’s surface, whereas lava is molten rock on the Earth’s surface. But, come on, just call it fucking lava.” —Stephen Hawking, private correspondence, 1998

“LAVA SPOUT?!” —Leonardo da Vinci, marginal note accompanying notebook drawing, 1502

“Once taken by primitive peoples to mean that the Corn God was displeased, a volcanic eruption is now known to signal the presence in a community of an unmarried woman.” —Thomas Edison, “A Proposal for the Increased Understanding of Planetary Tremors,” 1901

“I could grow peanuts there, no problem.” —George Washington Carver, instant utterance upon seeing a photograph of a Polynesian village submerged in lava, 1933

“I think it inevitably follows that as new species in the course of time are formed through natural selection, others will become rarer and rarer, and finally extinct, especially if they ever become stuck in lava, in which case that’s pretty much it for them.” —Charles Darwin, “On the Origin of Species,” 1859

“That goo is hot! Do not touch the hot goo!” —Aristotle, “Hot Goo Ethics,” 342 B.C.

“My research is neither leisurely nor theoretical; rather, it finds its basis in the urgent fact that, as great volcanic chancres continue to sprout across the surface of our planet, we will, by this century’s end, be forced to make our home on another.” —Galileo Galilei, “Discourse on Lava’s Deleterious Effects Toward Human Flesh,” 1633

“Lava? Ooh, scary. You do know I discovered radium, right?” —Marie Curie, “Don’t Even Talk to Me About Lava,” 1932

“Suppose a cave whose inhabitants have been chained, hand and foot and neck, making all movement impossible, and suppose further that these people may behold only shadows projected on the wall, and now imagine the cave is slowly filling up with lava. Scary!” —Plato, “The Republic,” 375 B.C.

“It is the most dangerous creation in all of nature, save the cactus.” —Albert Einstein, “On Lava and Cacti,” 1906

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist. This distinction’s evaporation was perhaps best exemplified in the 1918 Bolshevist pamphlet ‘Lava Is Actually Cold.’ ” —Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” 1951

“When I got into orbit, I looked down at our fragile little planet—the one place we all share—and it finally sunk in. There are no borders, no boundaries. We’re one people. And what divides us is far less significant than what unites us: vulnerability to the true enemy, lava.” —Mae Jemison, “Find Where the Wind Goes,” 2001

“No, I’m not worried.” —Lucius Graccus, public address as Mayor of Pompeii, 78

“What you’ve got to remember about lava is that it’s hot. Almost unimaginably hot. Much worse than a stove, for example. And the State Department knew this for decades before making the information public.” —Noam Chomsky, “60 Minutes” interview, 1987

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop. Unless you’re fleeing lava. Then it matters.” —Confucius, “Lava Analects,” 500 B.C.

“Now I am become lava.” —J. Robert Oppenheimer, awed whisper, 1945

“Magnificently boundless in scope, the universe challenges us not only to understand it but also ourselves. For to know who we truly are—what we are—we must first comprehend our place in the vastness of the cosmos. And vast it is. For example, picture a hundred marbles. The universe, as we know it, contains that many gallons of lava.” —Carl Sagan, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” 1980

“Stay back! I’ve got a dollop of it on the end of this stick! Whooo!” —Archimedes, drunken outburst, 199 B.C.

“Lava is no different from any other earthly phenomenon, in that it is about penises.” —Sigmund Freud, “Repression,” 1915

“While no evidence exists to support a rational belief in God, I believe that no one can credibly argue against my findings that periodic eruptions of lava from beneath the Earth’s crust are somehow caused by Satan.” —Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion,” 2006

“Yes, lava would harm them.” —Jane Goodall, Q. & A. session, 1991

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