When I was a kid, I loved playing with burning candles -- teasing a stream of molten wax from the pool below the flame, then watching as the streams flowed down the taper before they cooled and hardened.
Fourth of July was another time for sanctioned play with fire. The best were the volcanic eruptions of colored sparks from cones and Roman candles.
Nature can conjure up her own spectaculars, as in this image captured by the folks at Volcano Discovery, who lead tours to volcanic regions around the world. They record the photo as documenting lava floating on the waves on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The shows don't stop at the surface.
They were interested in submarine volcanic processes, and did considerable geologic work during the three-month cruise. But they also studied marine life they found in deep water off Hawaii, including amazing animals like this tripod fish.
It's not a species new to science, as are many others seen by MBARI researchers. But it's remarkable nonetheless, because people now have the technology -- and the curiosity -- to seek out life in the remote regions of our own ocean planet.
I say remote, but deep sea animals like the tripod fish aren't immune to our activities up on the surface.
There's drama and beauty in the interplay of fire and water when lava cascades into the sea. But our own survival may be more closely bound to what we're learning about the life-forms with whom we share this fragile world.