On January 15, 1919, in Boston's North End, a 50-foot-tall tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, unleashing a deadly wave that rose nearly 25 feet high at one point. The disaster killed 21 people and injured another 150. Nearly one hundred years later, an analysis carried out by a group of Harvard fluid dynamics physicists explains how "cold temperatures and unusual currents conspired to turn slow sticky goop into a deadly speeding wave." [more inside]
Fire whirls, aka fire tornadoes, aka fire devils, aka firenados, are frequently photographed but have only recently been scientifically validated based on data from the 2003 Canberra fires in Queensland, Australia. Although rare, the physics behind firenados is straightforward enough to create your own. The most devastating fire tornado was the "dragon twist" that devastated Tokyo immediately following the great Japan quake of 1923.
How does an ecosystem rebound from catastrophe? Thirty years after the blast, Mount St. Helens is reborn again. Interactive Graphic: Blast Zone. Also see National Geographic's feature article from 1981, chronicling that year's eruption. Previously on MeFi [more inside]
The Pale Horse Percentage. The demise of civilization has been predicted since it began, but the odds of keeping Planet Earth alive and well are getting worse amid a breakneck pace of scientific advances, according to Martin Rees, Britain's honorary astronomer royal. Rees calculates that the odds of an apocalyptic disaster striking Earth have risen to about 50 percent from 20 percent a hundred years ago.
Cosmic bolt probed in shuttle disaster - Scientists poring over 'infrasonic' sound waves Federal scientists are looking for evidence that a bolt of electricity in the upper atmosphere might have doomed the space shuttle Columbia as it streaked over California, The Chronicle has learned.