Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Volcano Post


I spent yesterday into the wee hours running the system mechanic on my laptop. I spent half of today doing more. Short of opening up the actual machine, I have done everything I can to it.

Still not doing as well as it should. The fan is going, it's hot, and whenever this happens it slows. But at least it's not hanging, as I rescued some RAM.


Before I get to the volcano:

First a little somewhat related aside. I heard that some time ago, 50 tonnes of Mars fell on India as red dusty rain over the space of two months.
No one is sure what the particles are exactly, but they resemble bio-molecules.

Scientists posit that this is the sort of event that originally seeded life on earth however many millions of years ago. So perhaps in another million years something new will develop from this, be it a new organism, species or bacteria.


Geneticists have been discovering that, considering the age of the human race, there is surprisingly little genetic variation among modern humans. Why?

They think that at one point in history there was a genetic bottleneck due to a drastic reduction in the human population. It may have gone down to 5-10,000 people.

Vulcanologists have been making parallel discoveries through their studies of seismic activity under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA. They predict that if the magma chamber under the park were to erupt, it would devastate North America and not long after that, dangerously affect the rest of the world.

Ashfall from a major Yellowstone eruption over 600,000 years ago has been discovered in geologic samples from the entire shaded area. Minor ones only occurred about 160,000 years ago.

This is a Super Volcano. It has no cone, but there is a caldera under which broods a subterranean magma chamber, deep in the bowels of the earth. Yellowstone's caldera is 85km long and 45 km wide.

If conditions coincide to result in a buildup of pressure, the whole thing blows. Huge areas would be covered in magma and pyroclastic flows. Tonnes of sulphuric acid and ash would be shot into the atmosphere. Imagine the acid rain!

Scientists know that a super volcano erupted 74,000 years ago in Toba, Sumatra (Indonesia). They say it was the loudest sound mankind has ever heard.

The geneticists are able to pinpoint this event through Mitochondrial DNA, passed only through the mother. Whereas most genetic information is found in our cell nuclei, the mitochondria (energy powerhouse) of the cell also contains a small amount of DNA. Mitochondrial DNA mutates at very regular intervals.

It proves useful in their clocking the approximate time of the event: 70-80,000 years ago.

Volcanic ash stays in the earth's atmosphere and deflects a percentage of sunlight. The earth's temperature would have dropped by 4-5 degrees. It might not sound like much, but
overall this would result in a nuclear winter - reduced crops, starvation, populations wiped out.

The genetic variation that existed before the eruption bottlenecked and only a few survived and it is from this small variety that the world population once again grew.
So we are all more closely related than we'd thought, thanks to the super volcano...

Pyroclastic Flow


Jia Li said...

I love Volcanos! I want to visit the etna some day

Rox said...

Scary! Waah! Let's hope it won't errupt any time soon.

Leilouta said...

I read that today on the earth live half of the people that have ever existed.

Steliano Ponticos said...

Imagine if the big volcanic eruption had not happened. If human evolution would have went on freely...what would we be like?

Steliano Ponticos said...

the quote of the day is to conquer fear is the beginning of wisdome. I really think this is wrong.

Olivia said...

JL - wow, you reminded me that I saw Vesuvius ... ! Couldn't keep my eyes off it, it was visible from every part of Pompeii, at only half its original size....wow.

Rox - Not for a few thousand years, so don't worry. We might not be around then ;)

Leilouta - I like stats like that. It means SO many people live on the earth now. Thanks for sharing.

Steli - I know! We all look different enough now (or so we think). Maybe, maybe it would be like in addition to us, there would be all the humanoid aliens on Star Trek...that sort of variety.

Olivia said...

Haha, oh that's funny - today's birthday is Captain Kirk.

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