Merapi Mini-Update for 11/7/2010
I write the Eruptions blog on Big Think. I've been mesmerized with volcanoes (and geology) all my life. It helps that part of my family comes from the shadow of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia, where I could see first hand the deadly effects of volcanic eruptions. Since then, I've taken a bit of a winding path to become a volcanologist. I started as a history major at Williams College, almost went into radio, but ended up migrating to geology, including an undergraduate thesis on Vinalhaven Island, Maine. I followed this up by changing coast to get my Ph.D. from Oregon State University. Then I ran a MC-ICP-MS lab at University of Washington for a spell (and wrote for an indie rock website). I spent three years as a postdoctoral scholar at University of California - Davis studying the inner workings of magmatic systems. I am now an assistant professor at Denison University and have projects in New Zealand, Chile and Oregon.
I am fascinated by volcanoes, their eruptions and how those eruptions interact with the people who live around the volcanoes. I started this blog after getting frustrated with the news reports of volcanic eruptions. Most of them get the information wrong and/or are just sensationalistic. I will try to summarize eruptions as they occur, translate some of the volcanic processes that are happening and comment on the reports themselves.
And no matter what people tell you, I definitely do not have a cat named Tephra. (OK, I do).
You can find out more about my research by visiting my website. If you have any comments, questions or information, feel free to contact me at eruptionsblog at gmail dot com.
Not a lot of time for me today, but needless to say, there is still a lot of action at Merapi. I've opened this thread after seeing the 637 comments from yesterday. Sadly, the death toll from the eruption has now reached 156 with the ash plume reaching ~6 km / 20,000 feet and James Reynolds, on the ground near Merapi, is reporting the eruption is still in full swing. Some airlines have decided to resume flights to Jakarta as well. The images of the ash near the volcano are remarkable and heartbreaking, with the entire landscape covered in the grey Merapi ash.
However, even as bad as this eruption has seemed, remember that this is very normal for a volcano like Merapi. It is a composite arc volcano that can produce significant ash and pyroclastic flows - just looking at its history you can see frequent eruptions that produced tephra volumes that are likely comparable to what we are seeing now. This is not anomalous for the volcano, but the location of Merapi, with its proximity to a large population (on the most populous island in the world), has made the human aspect of the eruption amplify its volcanic. It is much like Eyjafjallajökull in the sense that a moderate volcanic eruption (VEI 3-4) has captured the world's attention, but we should not get lost in any sensationalism.
Top left: The dark plume from Merapi on November 6, 2010.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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