Monday, September 19, 2011

Science: Time-Traveling Volcanoes Are Trying To Kill Us All!

A new article in ScienceNow today proposes an absolutely frightening idea: what if volcanic eruptions could travel in time?

The article is based on a recent study on the eruption of Iceland's Laki fissure in 1783-1784. In the study, which I didn't read because I was so terrified by the abstract, lead author Anja Schmidt of the University of Leeds and her et als ask the horrifying hypothetical: What if the eruption of 1783 were to happen today instead?

The results, as you might predict, are equal parts doom and gloom: travel disruptions, global air pollution, and 142,000 additional deaths of heart disease in Europe. These problems are in addition to the spacetime paradoxes that would be generated by the 1783 eruption having not have happened in 1783, all of which would cascade to create an awful mess of the present day.

This is certainly terrifying enough. But to follow this study's premise to its illogical conclusion, it implicates that all past volcanic eruptions are not bound by the constraints of chronology. You might think you're perfectly safe from, say, the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius or the eruption of Mount Krakatau in 1883. Not anymore! You could wake up tomorrow morning to find the Toba supereruption of the Upper Pleistocene happening in your living room!

In rare circumstances, the only honorable thing to do is panic. This, I think, qualifies as one of those circumstances.

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