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Mount Vesuvius eruption boiled people's blood, made skulls explode
The eruption quickly killed those caught in its intense wake.
- The eruption occurred in the year 79 A.D.
- New research suggests the people of the town of Herculaneum were killed nearly instantly by intense heat
- According to recent findings, the victims' blood boiled, and their soft tissues were vaporized.
Residents of Herculaneum found in a "life-like" stance, rather than curled up, indicates near-instant death.
Imagine living next to Mount Vesuvius in the 1st century, four miles away in the ancient town of Herculaneum. And imagine not knowing that the volcano was about to erupt. What archaeologists are currently trying to piece together now is what happened next.
Hint: It's not pretty. The possible blessing for residents of the town, however, is that what happened was quick — quicker than being cremated, by far.
The seaside chambers
First Phase (Surge 1)
Vesuvius erupts about every 2000 years. When such a volcano erupts, there are at least two phases:
- The initial fallout phase, called the pumice air-fall phase, was dispersed 70 km (about 44 miles). This is what buried Pompeii.
- The "pyroclastic surges and flows" phase is next, which involves rapid, gravity-driven currents of hot gases mixed with volcanic ash, generated by the collapse of the eruptive column.
From what has been found in the archaeological exploration, the second phase is what the residents of Herculaneum found in this gathering endured, as well as the surviving residents of the initial phase in Pompeii. This particular set of 300 human remains were found in 12 seaside chambers, where undoubtedly they sought shelter after seeing the initial eruption.
However, unbeknownst to the asylum seekers, the temperatures in the ash/hot gas currents can reach from 200–300 degrees °C to a whopping 500 degrees °C. What archaeologists found upon unearthing the victims were all direct evidence that they died almost instantly, rather than over time as previously theorized.
And — here's where it gets rather macabre — the evidence strongly indicates they died from their blood boiling, skulls fracturing (and even exploding from said blood boiling). Their bodily fluids and soft tissues, the researchers say, experienced a "rapid vaporization."
In their words, the remains they discovered "strongly suggest a widespread pattern of heat-induced hemorrhage, intracranial pressure increase and bursting, most likely to be the cause of instant death of the inhabitants in Herculaneum."
- Mount Vesuvius eruption: Heat turned victim's brain to glass - Big Think ›
- Mount Vesuvius eruption turned a man's brain to glass - Big Think ›
A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.
- There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
- A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
- Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.
First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)
Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.
All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.
Image source: European Space Agency
The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.
Into and out of Earth's shadow
In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.
The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."
In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."
When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.
The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.
BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.
MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.
Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.
Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.
- There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
- Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
- "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.