Lava can be an uncaring and heartless scientific mistress. It's very difficult to predict when a volcano will erupt, especially if it doesn't have a history of volatile behavior, and it's impossible to tell where the lava it produces will flow and how that lava will behave once it makes an appearance. Lava is the psycho ex-boyfriend or girlfriend of the scientific universe.
It's also impossible to study if you don't live in the famed "Ring of Fire," the name for the coastal regions that surround the Pacific Ocean where volcanic and seismic activity are known to occur.
Artist Bob Wysocki and geologist Jeff Karson, both faculty members at Syracuse University in New York, have a vested interest in finding a lava source in their own backyard. Wysocki makes sculptures that mimic the images of nature and Karson has to travel to places like Hawaii and Iceland to get near the stuff. Yeah, my heart bleeds for the guy who has to travel to Hawaii to do his work.
So the two decided to team up and make a homemade volcano that can produce lava as part of a research project called simply the Lava Project. They took a bronze furnace and souped it up to produce enough heat to melt basaltic gravel, the mineral from the Earth's crust that turns into lava. Once it's melted, they can just pour it out and observe its patterns and behavior just as though they were standing on the edge of a real volcano.
NPR's Adam Cole, host of the YouTube series Skunk Bear, heard about Wysocki and Karson's project and decided to take a field trip to see their lava-cooking process.
It goes without saying that you shouldn't attempt to make lava yourself, unless you believe enough in the cause of human evolution to take yourself out of the gene pool for the betterment of all mankind.