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Well, at least this isn't another Iraq post.
September 12, 2003 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Yellowstone supervolcano threatens world destruction - That's about it, folks: "Volcanologists have been tracking the movement of magma under the park and have calculated that in parts of Yellowstone the ground has risen over seventy centimetres, almost two and a half feet, since 1923, indicating a massive swelling underneath the park. "The impact of a Yellowstone eruption is terrifying to comprehend." says Professor McGuire. "Magma would be flung 50 kilometres into the atmosphere. Within a thousand kilometres virtually all life would be killed by falling ash" The Yellowstone caldera has been acting up in recent months and we're supposedly overdue for the big one. But don't flee to the East coast: A super tidal wave will get you there. I hear Tierra Del Fuego is nice, except for the Ozone Hole problem. Have a nice weekend. Y'all.
posted by troutfishing (83 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
SWEEEEEEEEEEET!!!
posted by crazy finger at 1:22 PM on September 12, 2003


gee, thanks for the uplifting post there.

really raised my hopes.
---

however it does raise once again the issue of just how vulnerable life on this planet can be.
posted by knapah at 1:25 PM on September 12, 2003


*shrug*

Life is meaningless without John Ritter anyway.
posted by keswick at 1:27 PM on September 12, 2003


Just as long as it happens after my vacation. I don't want anything screwing up my trip to Paris, dammit.
posted by briank at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2003


On August 10, the Denver Post reported that Liz Morgan, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist had discovered a huge bulge underneath Yellowstone Lake that had risen 100 feet from the lake floor. The bulge is two thousand feet long and has the potential to explode at any time.

I get these on my chin sometimes.
posted by spacewaitress at 1:30 PM on September 12, 2003


I'm going to the Norris geyser basin tomorrow. I promise to walk real softly and not disturb anything.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:30 PM on September 12, 2003


oh boo to worry and fear
we should all just calm down and kimono
posted by Peter H at 1:32 PM on September 12, 2003


had discovered a huge bulge underneath Yellowstone Lake that had risen 100 feet ...OR WAS IT JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME!
posted by Peter H at 1:33 PM on September 12, 2003


More discussion of seismic good times (Mt. Rainier and Yellowstone both included) in this past thread...
posted by clever sheep at 1:34 PM on September 12, 2003


Relax everyone. John Titor mentioned nothing about a supervolcano erupting, so we're OK until at least 2036...
posted by MsVader at 1:36 PM on September 12, 2003


What, no jokes about liquid-hot mag-ma being spurted into the atmosphere?
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:41 PM on September 12, 2003


In my well-known, major player role as a highly paid logging-industry/environmental consultant to the Bush administration, you've no doubt heard of my successful lobbying efforts to prevent fires by "thinning" our forests (and hey, the logs we cut down as a "Public Service" gotta end up somewhere, right! ~wink~). You know...our logging, highly profitable as it may be, is really done just to keep Smokey from shedding more big sad bear tears and all.

Our Motto: "Remember, only you (and the destruction of entire ecosystems) can prevent forest fires."

But I tell you, this Yellowstone thing could be even BIGGER, given the proper spin. Drilling for oil in Yellowstone just might relieve some of that there horrible swelling magma pressure. Plus...extending the drilling up into Alaska and offshore just to make sure there isn't any more magma terrorism threatening The Homeland wouldn't be such a bad idea, either.

Think of it as a Public Service.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:46 PM on September 12, 2003


And now, for bonus points, calculate the number of SUVs it would take to equal the CO2 release that would result from this.
It will, of course, be all our fault for not ratifying Kyoto.
posted by darukaru at 1:46 PM on September 12, 2003


It should be clarified that the release of pressure is the problem, not the solution. As the pressure inside the magma chamber drops, a point will be reached where the saturated water vapor and other gasses leave the magma with explosive force. Say goodnight, Gracie.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:50 PM on September 12, 2003


Within a thousand kilometres virtually all life would be killed by falling ash

Speaking as an American, I'm not sure what 1000 kilometers really is. Speaking as a Californian, I'm not sure there really is much life within 1000 kilometers of Yellowstone. Isn't that in like Montana or something?
posted by jonson at 1:51 PM on September 12, 2003


Um ... this is scary. I'm going home now. I'll be hiding under my bed with a bottle of Bombay Saphire until the threat is gone.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:53 PM on September 12, 2003


Somehow, this is Bush's fault.
posted by keswick at 1:53 PM on September 12, 2003


And now, for bonus points, calculate the number of SUVs it would take to equal the CO2 release that would result from this.
It will, of course, be all our fault for not ratifying Kyoto.


In other news, dust from volcanoes found to cause respiratory distress: smokers demand their "rights" to smoke around children with asthma.

~chuckle~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:53 PM on September 12, 2003


This cements my plans to take my family to see Yellowstone soon. I'd rather go in one super blast than die a slow agonizing volcanically wintery death in Denver.
posted by kozad at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2003


Speaking as an American, I'm not sure what 1000 kilometers really is.

Just use Google's calculator. Good thing I live about 1600 kilometers away ;-)
posted by hyperizer at 1:55 PM on September 12, 2003


Hey, f_&_m, why are you even here? Aren't there enough genuinely political threads for you to scamper around in?
posted by Skot at 2:01 PM on September 12, 2003


Get your bible off the shelf - read the book of Revelation for yourself.
posted by rocketman at 2:03 PM on September 12, 2003


Do any of the features beneath the lake relate to possible volcanic eruptions?

It is very unlikely. All active features are related to faults and hot water (hydrothermal) vents. Identified craters were formed by collapse or as a result of old hydrothermal explosions. Many of the rocks beneath the lake are lava flows more than 100,000 years old.
-From a FAQ by the USGS
posted by kickingtheground at 2:04 PM on September 12, 2003


The last time this happened mankind was reduced to a small tribe with only a few thousands members left, but that was in the stone age. What with our modern technology and so forth I'm sure mankind wouldn't become extinct from this. Millions, hell! Tens of millions of people would survive.

Just not on this continent.
posted by Bonzai at 2:05 PM on September 12, 2003


Map of the area. Note scale at lower left.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:06 PM on September 12, 2003


Someone better get cracking on that civilizational survival manual.
posted by homunculus at 2:09 PM on September 12, 2003


Follow the links from the article and things get a lot less scary. " At present, there is no evidence of recent growth of any features beneath the lake, and there is no indication that residents or visitors are in any danger. Temperature measurements from hydrothermal vents taken this year indicate no change in temperatures compared to those taken last year. The feature may have been there for decades or much longer."

So crawl out from under your beds......for now.
posted by Salmonberry at 2:10 PM on September 12, 2003


Californian, I'm not sure there really is much life within 1000 kilometers of Yellowstone.

The last one iirc the exploding earth went as far east as Kansas & Missouri. Before man went to the moon, NASA testing a satellite took some pictures from space showing the last eruption's crater, practically all of Yellowstone Park.
Did you watch PBS's documentary about this troutfishing?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:14 PM on September 12, 2003


Salmonberry and kickingtheground, there are two things going on here that appear to be confused into the same thing. There is a swelling under Yellowstone Lake, and yes, the USGS is telling us all that it is safe and geological stable for now. However, there is increasing activity and change in other areas related to the Yellowstone caldera. For instance, the Norris basin is several many miles North of the lake, and is experiencing a lot of instability. The lower basin was closed and remains so, due to ground temperatures of about 200 degrees (f). Pork chop geyser, effectively dead since it exploded in '89 has come back to life. (That's why I'm going there, tomorrow ... I want to see that puppy. And no, the park service hasn't updated their website with the news, yet). I'm not offering these as examples that "She's gonna blow!", but as examples that we don't have any real idea when she's gonna blow.

The swelling under the lake may be perfectly safe. But the stability of that feature is also no way to predict the major eruption that is coming, and is in fact, 40, 000 years over due.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:26 PM on September 12, 2003


As I understand. . Yellowstone is over a hotspot which, when under what is now Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, produced this series of lava flows roughly 15 million years ago.

Recorded history contains nothing remotely of this scale.

The crust of the earth moves over the hotspot .. not vice versa.
posted by Danf at 2:29 PM on September 12, 2003


Note that the author is a Bible-thumping apocalypse advocate.
posted by Eloquence at 2:30 PM on September 12, 2003


From the article:

"The impact of a Yellowstone eruption is terrifying to comprehend." says Professor McGuire. "Magma would be flung 50 kilometers into the atmosphere. Within a thousand kilometers virtually all life would be killed by falling ash, lava flows and the sheer explosive force of the eruption. One thousand cubic kilometers of lava would pour out of the volcano, enough to coat the whole of the USA with a layer 5 inches thick. The explosion would be the loudest noise heard by man for 75,000 years."

OK, I'm not the best at math but according to my calculations 1000 km3 is not nearly enough lava to cover the USA 5 inches thick! Its only more like 3 or 4, its just like a government agency to exaggerate figures like that!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:31 PM on September 12, 2003


This guy specializes in this sort of thing. From his bio:

"He has written many articles over the years on "the end times""

"The end result of this research led Gurney to an astonishing conclusion that is currently shaking the theological establishment. Ancient prophecy and world events are running in parallel, Mankind's destiny has already been decided. He believes that the dogma of most academics and theologians has blinded them to the truth of the numerology in Daniel and Revelation and that most scholars and scientists no longer have the imagination to believe that world events can be foretold before they happen."

Well, that was a waste of 20 minutes.
Unless there is something else to support this story, I'll go with the USGS version.
posted by 2sheets at 2:38 PM on September 12, 2003


My God, Eloquence, you missed the worst part of all:

he spent the 70's working with the likes of Phil Collins, Genesis, David Cassidy, Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and Fleetwood Mac

How can anything this man now says be given any credence?
posted by yhbc at 2:38 PM on September 12, 2003


Will this at least kill off the goddamn sharks?
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 2:43 PM on September 12, 2003


People in the volcano biz have always known that Yellowstone is one big volcano. Others think volcanoes must have a peak that spews smoke every so often. There are two "looks" to vocanoes.
posted by Postroad at 2:44 PM on September 12, 2003


No use in worrying about this. It could blow tomorrow morning, and it could blow 10,000 years from now. On the geological scale, both are equally instantaneous.

The same goes for a meteor strike or a super-massive solar flare. We aren't really at any more risk now than we were 5000 years ago, or will be 5000 years hence.

It's all outlined quite nicely in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

But if you're looking to use this as an excuse to ask out that special someone you've had the hots for, by all means do so.
posted by aladfar at 2:55 PM on September 12, 2003


But if you're looking to use this as an excuse to ask out that special someone you've had the hots for, by all means do so.

Fair enough... quonsar?
posted by jonson at 3:03 PM on September 12, 2003


Relax everyone. John Titor mentioned nothing about a supervolcano erupting, so we're OK until at least 2036...
posted by MsVader at 1:36 PM PST on September 12


Well, actually......

I find this fascinating. Has California had the big earthquake?

The big one? As you are experiencing now, there are earthquakes, storms and other unfortunate surprises from Mother Nature that have impacts on your society and future history. That is one reason I won't go into detail. However, don't worry too much about major portions of coastline slipping under water
.

posted by Espoo2 at 3:05 PM on September 12, 2003


Our capacity to detect natural threat does not increase the likelihood of that threat.

In other words, just because we're aware asteroids are out there, doesn't mean they're more likely to hit us. And just because we're aware of volcanic events, doesn't make them more likely to burst.

This stands in ever starker contrast to issues of computer security (which is what I deal with).
posted by effugas at 3:15 PM on September 12, 2003


The swelling ... may be perfectly safe. But the stability of that feature is also no way to predict the major eruption that is coming, and is in fact, 40, 000 years over due.

you have just described my sex life.
posted by quonsar at 3:25 PM on September 12, 2003


This is piddling stuff; just wait until all the other dimensions start to unfurl:

"In the long run," he said, "the universe doesn't want to be four-dimensional. It wants to be 10 dimensions."

So sooner or later, the loops will unravel like a tangle of rubber bands, passing through a succession of configurations that take less and less energy to maintain, until finally the other dimensions expand and the cosmological constant is gone.

The decay of the cosmological constant will be fatal, astronomers agree. At that moment a bubble of 10-dimensional space will sweep out at the speed of light, rearranging physics and the prospects of atoms and planets, not to mention biological creatures.


So, like, blammo.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 3:47 PM on September 12, 2003


like, blammo10.
posted by quonsar at 4:06 PM on September 12, 2003


Somehow, this is Bush's fault.

"If some tinhorn volcano wants me, tell him to come and get me! I’ll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!"
posted by moonbiter at 4:31 PM on September 12, 2003


The decay of the cosmological constant will be fatal,

erm kinda. the universe, currently expanding, will start to contract when a state of complete entropy is reached. None of us will be around to witness that event, because humankind will not be able to exist in this state, it's impossible for life to exist in such a state.

So yes fatal, but on the otherhand, fatal for every single thing in the universe, which kinda makes one less worried about it.
posted by carfilhiot at 4:35 PM on September 12, 2003


In case Yellowstone isn't enough, let's not forget the ever-popular Deccan and Siberian Traps -- the Siberian Traps being associated with the Permian Extinction (the largest extinction event in all of Earth history).

...and, of course, there are any number of other supervolcanoes out there waiting patiently, all over the world.
posted by aramaic at 5:03 PM on September 12, 2003


Ok, stop it. Stop it. I'm going to just go and Enjoy Kimono Photo Album now, cause you're all freaking me out.

Nice, safe kimono photo album.....
posted by Salmonberry at 5:21 PM on September 12, 2003


...yes then, and www.onlinejournal.com has a world wide reputation for breaking geoscience related news stories. I'm sure the scientific community at large takes its reporting, especially its "Special Reports", as law.
posted by jdaura at 5:26 PM on September 12, 2003


Fair enough Espoo2.

But I'm thinking that if Yellowstone blew its top and the world was thrust into a nuclear-winter-like state, the last thing the few remaining people would do is send some dude back in time to get a computer from the 1970s...
posted by MsVader at 5:33 PM on September 12, 2003


Well, if you read the actual USGS FAQ: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/new.html things aren't nearly as scary as posed in the article.

From looking at the other items on this fellow's website, it appears that he's all about destruction and disaster of the "Weekly World News" type.
posted by tgrundke at 5:38 PM on September 12, 2003


Oh yeah, the Siberian Traps and the Deccan Traps. I read about them a while back. An area the size of Europe, debris hundreds of thousands of times the size of what was produced by Mount St Helens, eruptions lasting a million years, that sort of thing. Fun!!
posted by bargle at 5:46 PM on September 12, 2003


I hear Tierra Del Fuego is nice, except for the Ozone Hole problem.

Report: Antarctic ozone hole sets record
posted by homunculus at 5:57 PM on September 12, 2003


While I'm reading this thread there is an earthquake. Whoooo I'm still here and the building didn't collapse.
posted by filchyboy at 6:02 PM on September 12, 2003


eruptions lasting a million years

Well, that's usually what my wife says afterwards, thanks.
posted by billsaysthis at 6:58 PM on September 12, 2003


Anyone notice the byline?
Ian Gurney is a journalist, broadcaster and author of the bestseller "The Cassandra Prophecy" published by International Global Press. ISBN 0953581314. He can be contacted at info@caspro.com.
Click through to THAT puppy...
posted by fooljay at 7:05 PM on September 12, 2003


this would make a great reality show: molten lava, flames, young couples having desperate sex in the last terrible moments of their lives and ... alf. it just wouldn't get any better than that.
posted by poopy at 7:32 PM on September 12, 2003


So I think I'm some 1400 km away. Maybe I should move closer so I can be killed instantly instead of slowly starving. Of course, there would probably still be plenty of ash over here, so I might choke on that.

You know, if this volcano could go off before my term paper is due, that'd be nice.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:34 PM on September 12, 2003


Arrrgh! Here... Let me help:

The Cassandra Prophecy compares world events taking place now with the ancient prophecies of Jesus Christ, contained in the Scriptures of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as the fascinating truth behind The Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine. The Number of The Beast, 666, is explained, as is the fate of the Roman Catholic Church and the future of The Vatican and The Papacy. The mystery of The Last Seven Plagues, and their influence on current world affairs is revealed and the truth behind The Whore and The Beast of The Book of Revelation proves beyond doubt that mankind's fate has already been decided.

So, now, the question is: Do you take the red pill or the blue pill?
posted by fooljay at 7:52 PM on September 12, 2003


I for one will welcome the end to the Bush administration.

Thanks for the "sleuthing" that I certainly missed fooljay. This completely discredits onlinejournal from now on in my eyes.

. . .proves beyond doubt that mankind's fate has already been decided.

Well yeah. We know it's all going to end sometime. The Sun is finite. So therefore, as was mentioned further up, an eruption "happening tomorrow and happening within ten thousand years" is equally as instantaneous in geologic time. The Bible was written before the advent of modern geology. Therefore it would follow this guy is full of shit. However the real, scientific, measured analysis is indeed scary.

That is why it is being studied. And that is why we are human -- to study. This fucking apocalyptic "we can't do a thing" prophecymongering is exactly that which will kill us whether it has anything to do with a tinhorn supervolcano or not.
posted by crasspastor at 8:21 PM on September 12, 2003


After clicking through to the idiotic "caspro" site, I am relieved that this jackass has been exposed as a crackpot.

But the tidal wave thingie has me worried...the entire nation would be just like one huge Poseidon Adventure. Hell, we've still got Gene Hackman and Shelley Winters to lead us to safety.
posted by davidmsc at 8:54 PM on September 12, 2003


Is the 'big wave' is the credible threat - if you live in the Atlantic basin area. Meanwhile, the Yellowstone volcano blast could happen sometime within 50,000 years or so. Life goes on.

But aramaic nailed it - the Permian extinction event, believed to have been trigger by volcanic activity, has been attributed to the Deccan and Siberian traps. I was wondering about this in relation to the Yellowstone caldera - if it erupts every 600 million years, it must not be so high on the list of world destructive events. There have been 5 major extinction events in the Earth's history. Humans are now causing the sixth.

So: party up. And Kimono too, of course.

poopy - yuo'd better get yr. ass over to the relevant studio to pitch your idea. Think "Young couples given plane tickets to Yellowstone, opt for desperate end-time sex" story line.

Sex and Death: two great tastes that taste great together.

thomcatspike: you're ahead of me on that one. It's great senasationalistic stuff, eh?
posted by troutfishing at 9:02 PM on September 12, 2003


It's probably worth pointing out that the phrase "large hydrothermal explosion event," used by the researcher quoted in Gurney's article, doesn't necessarily refer to a volcano at all. In fact, she doesn't think it is one.
posted by transona5 at 9:27 PM on September 12, 2003


troutfishing, it's 600,00 years, not 600 million. And the traps aren't seen as active in the way that the supervolcanoes are. Their energies were largely changed by the very explosiveness of their earlier eruptions. No, the Yellowstone Volcano is not so high up on the list of world destructive events, but it is the largest active supervolcano and its eruption is imminent (give or take 10,000 years).

transona5, again you are mistaking a geothermal feature's behavior for the behavior of the caldera as a whole. Morgan is correct that the swelling under Yellowstone lake does not constitute the sum of a volcanic event. But if you take a look at the size of the caldera as a whole, and follow the links previously posted in this thread, you will find that the Yellowstone caldera is the size of most of the park. What is discussed in the Gurney article isn't a "large hydrothermal explosion event", its an eruption of the volcano that fosters such events.

davidmsc, I'm sorry my man, but the fact that this article was hosted and presented by a crackpot doesn't change the facts. Yellowstone will blow, and you're living on the shoulders of the beast. Personally, I'm trying to convince the wife that we need to move to New Zealand; but if we're going to stay here, I'd rather be in the zone where the shockwave will kill me, than to die of starvation later.

To all and sundry, I'm really not trying to fear-monger here. Its just a fact that we can't do anything about this ... yet. Blame the geology on end-times-prophets all you want, but the facts clearly show that such a super volcanic event is going to happen. I live on top of the damn thing, and I don't fear it. I would hope that the rest of you don't either. crasspastor has it partly right, and aladfar pegs it succinctly. Let's look the beast in the eyes, and see who blinks first.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:07 PM on September 12, 2003


It's like a million cows suddenly cried out in fear and were silenced.
posted by fatbobsmith at 10:09 PM on September 12, 2003


Yeah, but the way Gurney quotes her is deliberately misleading - he uses it to support the theory that volcanic devastation is imminent without giving the proper context. I'm not denying that it'll happen someday, but unless scientists are deliberately holding back so as not to scare us, it's not that likely that you'll be around to see the event.
posted by transona5 at 10:15 PM on September 12, 2003


I'm not denying that it'll happen someday, but unless scientists are deliberately holding back so as not to scare us, it's not that likely that you'll be around to see the event.

See, this is the part you're not getting. It's neither likely nor unlikely. We don't know. As it states clearly in the Gurney article, this will happen, and we don't have any idea when. Volcanic devastation IS imminent. Only the foolish would think that it isn't a bother for them.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:31 PM on September 12, 2003


His article is completely without merit, except as a jumping-off point for some good links. And, yes, it will happen. But is it definitely "imminent"? Well, 100 or 1000 years is imminent in geological time, but neither is a bother for me, or at least moving to New Zealand wouldn't help. A more recent AP article (September 10) that I found on Lexis-Nexis says that scientists believe that there's no "impending" eruption, which I don't find all that reassuring, but there's nothing in Gurney's article that, when checked out, should make anyone more scared than the last time something about Yellowstone was posted here. Which in my case was pretty scared.
posted by transona5 at 10:47 PM on September 12, 2003


Actually, considering prevailing weather patterns, moving to New Zealand would help. But only if one was willing to stock-pile food. And my wife will only do it if she gets to live in BagEnd.

So, I guess I'll stay living on a big-ass supervolcano.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:00 PM on September 12, 2003


Before you move, Wulfgar, you might want to do a little googling on the Auckland volcanic field (yes, our largest city is built atop an active field), Mount Ruapehu, the Tarawera explosion, and the Lake Taupo eruption.

And we're well overdue for a Richter 8 shake here in Wellington, Christchurch is awaiting a 100 year flood, and Dunedin's bloody cold.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:06 PM on September 12, 2003


Well, 100 or 1000 years is imminent in geological time, but neither is a bother for me

I would like to think that my grandchildren, great grandchildren or great (x100) grandchildren have a chance of survival. Not that I spend much time thinking about it.

Like any other possible extinction-level disaster (nuclear war, asteroid impact, alien attack, etc.) we need to pay attention to the situation. In this case we need to be aware of the danger coming from the caldera, monitor it, and be as prepared as we possibly can be. If we keep an eye on it and use technology appropriately there is no reason to think that in 2000 years we will not be capable of working against mother nature to some extent to delay or even prevent this type of disaster. And if it happens next year, and we have some warning ahead of time...well, the human race might be able to survive. Perhaps only a small fraction of us, but still.
posted by bargle at 11:47 PM on September 12, 2003


bargle,

Never let your responsibility exceed your authority.
posted by effugas at 5:31 AM on September 13, 2003


wulgar! - I know. (600,000 vs. 600 million) Just a crossed synaptic connection. There's a major extinction event every 600 million or so. So, the Yellowstone 'big blow' doesn't kill off 10% or more of species on Earth every time it does it's little trick. Maybe a percent or two? Who knows.

Anyway, I'm not sure there's any area really safe on Earth - there's always some aspect of one's local region which makes it especially risky for some sort of cataclysm. And here's another thought: given that there are always a whole bunch of volcanos - small up to enormous - ready to blow, as well underwater slides waiting to happen and send tidal waves to racing across the seas, earthquakes ready to level our cities and send California sliding into the pacific, the Gulf Stream ready to shut down (as it is now doing, it seems) to kick off the next Ice Age......

All of these disasters waiting happen could be neatly touched off were a small to mid size object - a hundred meters to a few miles in diameter - crash into the Earth. There are lots of unmapped objects in the smaller range which could be heading right at us! - and the energy of the impact could neatly trigger Yellowstone, the super tidal wave, and a whole host of other immanent disasters.

Bwahaha! BwahaHahaHahaHa!

bargle - One wise response to the range of possible extinction level events (which could end civilization or even the human species) was that of James Lovelock - He suggested ( in a Science editorial a couple years ago ) that humanity compile the core of it's scientific knowledge - reduce it to the bare essential knowledge from which our current scientific opus could be reconstructed if necessary, and print this body of knowledge on the best acid free paper (and other mediums as well) to be stored everywhere over the Earth.

Civilizations, Lovelock pointed out, come and go - and sometimes they disappear quite abruptly (for many different reasons). So if we were hit with an extinction level event, how much of the body of our scientific knowledge - painstakingly built up over hundreds if not thousands of years - would survive the cataclysm? How much of it is currently stored on electronic media which would be rendered unreadable? [ Who would be able to extract the knowledge from a random, battered hard drive? It would be worse than Linear B. And anyway most of these media tend to degrade in a few years. ] How much is now stored ( less and less every year! ) on cheap paper which tends to degrade into crumbling heaps in a few short years?

High quality acid free Paper has a proven track record of durability, as the Dead Sea Scrolls attest. And when in doubt, carving in stone is quite good too. You need to keep your stone text out of the rain though - a few millennia of weathering will make a mess of you precious carved text. [ It goes without saying that the best place for paper is in a clay pot in a dry cave in the desert. ]

Also the Mormon tradition of keeping a year's store of food on hand at all times is very wise, I'd say. I'm not into the special underwear though.
posted by troutfishing at 5:40 AM on September 13, 2003


Here's Lovelock's Science essay, "A book for all seasons". He says it far more eloquently than I can.
posted by troutfishing at 5:46 AM on September 13, 2003


Rx for cataclysm:

1) Stash scientific knowledge (printed on acid free paper), survival kit, and ten year's supply of food in a high desert cave.

2) Proceed to have lots of sex. Party.
posted by troutfishing at 5:54 AM on September 13, 2003


I think if you want to find things to fear, you'll find a lot of things closer to home than a volcano half a continent away. Listen for the scuttle of a spider's legs across your kitchen floor. Or the gaseous belch of a bus gathering speed in the next block. Or maybe you should wonder about that small lump under your breast.

The thing is, we all have a grim date to keep, and sixty or seventy years from now it won't matter how we got there.
posted by faceonmars at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2003


My spider just belched under my breast... am I doomed?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 AM on September 13, 2003


Fuck yes. We're all doomed, I tells ya. Doomed. But the dogs need another walk and then I need to do the shopping.
posted by faceonmars at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2003


faceonmars - Doom! Doom, I say!
posted by troutfishing at 8:36 PM on September 13, 2003


Of course the obvious solution is to colonize Mars ASAP - which explains why faceonmars is downplayng this threat. Sorry, buddy, you're gonna have company!
posted by soyjoy at 10:30 PM on September 13, 2003


No way, man, we missed our chance on that one. Mars is getting further and further away now. We'll never catch up.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 PM on September 13, 2003


We might catch Mars if we have an angry supervolcano nipping at our asses.
posted by troutfishing at 6:15 PM on September 14, 2003


Cool, I guess we don't have to worry about global warming anymore. Now I have to decide what color Ford Expedition I'm going to get
posted by WLW at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2003


WLW - you'd better buy "Lava-Pruf" tires to go on that SUV.

I'd say the Yellowstone volcano tale means that 1) environmental disasters which are not human caused are quite possible but 2) it's nonetheless still dumb to ignore our impact on the environment because - if Yellowstone doesn't blow - we humans still may do ourselves in through our own pitiful denial that we have an impact on global climate.
posted by troutfishing at 7:05 PM on September 16, 2003


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