Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cumbre Vieja

Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands looks peaceful now. Undersea surveys have found a 400 cubic km landslide, the debris of a prehistoric eruption. Previous activity has caused the Western slope to come loose, creating a North-South fracture. Another large eruption would cause 500 cubic kilometres of mountain to crash into the sea. Dr. Simon Day and Steven Ward have modelled what would happen next.

The initial impact would create a water dome 900 meters high, collapsing and spreading like a stone creating ripples. A massive tsunami would race across the Atlantic at nearly 800 km/hr. The coast of Morocco would be struck by waves 100 meters high. Waves up to 50 meters from crest to trough would strike the US East Coast. Water would inundate coasts from Britain to Brazil.

The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 produced waves up to 30 m high. Krakatoa's eruption in 1883 created 6 m waves, killing 30,000 people. The damage in New York City alone would make 9/11 look like a college prank. The Northeastern US is also vulnerable to earthquakes. As recently as 1925 a magnitude 7 quake struck the region. Unlike California or Hawaii, New York has never prepared for a major earthquake.

Before Einstein and Planck some scientists believed they knew everything about physics. Even today some will tell you that they have inventoried everything in the Universe. It is the height of folly to think we know everything in nature. Previously humans did not suspect what lies beneath their feet. The hiccoughs of a Black Hole less than a millimetre across can wipe out whole coastlines. The Universe has power and mysteries far beyond human understanding.


Blogger nige said...

"Before Einstein and Planck some scientists believed they knew everything about physics. Even today some will tell you that they have inventoried everything in the Universe. It is the height of folly to think we know everything in nature."

Who is going to sort this out? It's likely all further experimental and observational studies will be interpreted in terms of existing mainstream speculations about dark energy and string theory. Nobody in the mainstream who is influential is going to raise enough of a storm, or if they are, they don't have the kind of evidence or theory which would convince others.

The future will be very difficult.

5:22 AM  
Blogger mark drago said...

wow, Nige, that seems depressing, coming from a scientist such as yourself. I'm not clear on "this" in "sort this out."
And certainly, "...interpreted in terms of existing...", is usually the way humans, including scientists, do things isn't it? (Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that).

6:33 AM  
Blogger Rae Ann said...

When we learn about such threats as this, it kind of makes "global climate change" seem childish. The Earth is so much more powerful than we give it credit. We are merely small inhabitants.

6:51 AM  
Blogger nige said...


I have science training in several areas, but currently I'm working in IT. My stringy critics wouldn't want to think of me as a "scientist".

Although religious preachers ideally require belief in what they say, scientists should not have any guesswork beliefs, but just confidence in solid observational and experimental facts. A theory should only be accepted on the basis of experimental or observational evidence upon which it rests.

This is not the case today, as the mainstream defence of string theory shows. How is this problem likely to be resolved? Not from experimental or observational data, since string theory isn't able to make any falsifiable predictions. It stands to reason that there is going to be grave difficulties ahead in making fundamental progress against bigoted attitudes.

"And certainly, "...interpreted in terms of existing...", is usually the way humans, including scientists, do things isn't it? (Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that)."

Yes, that's the entire problem with physics. Physicists have to come to analyse the history of science objectively, and to learn that instead of fiddling old theories by adding additional epicycles, sometimes it pays to listen to radical new ideas, whether superficially they look crazy or not:

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough."

- Bohr's reply to Pauli, quoted by Freeman J Dyson, "Innovation in Physics", Scientific American vol. 199, pp. 74-82, sept 1958.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

That's a neat diagram, Louise! A bit small to read, though. Rae Ann, yes the Earth is powerful, but Climate Change can cause widespread crop failures, which is also fairly dramatic.

10:21 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

We can see a wave building. The string enterprise has been given 30 years and "dark energy" at least 9 years. The reporting I and others have done shows that those ideas are losing ground. This has lowered public opinion and funding of scientists.

I can cite other data points. LM's Harvard HETP Group (dominated by stringers) is so short of funding that their web server was shut down. The centrepiece of the Emperor's wardrobe, a Joint Dark Energy Mission, survives on minimal funding. JDEM is very unlikely to survive the NASA budget.

In the meantime, with little funding or publicity, the Swiss patent officers of the world are making real progress. If the mainstream does not move, they will be swept aside by the wave.

10:25 AM  
Blogger mark drago said...

oh-- string theory. I understand. But I agree with Ms. R. here: truth will out, eventually, whatever it may be.

10:41 AM  
Blogger serge said...

Thanks Louise. I have been on the lookout for this info on this volcano for a few years. This convinces me to avoid getting a house near the ocean on the East coast of N.A. as we were planning, and possibly avoid the same on any ocean coast.

2:05 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

If you click on the diagram you will get a bigger version with wave heights at various points. Everyone who buys a home should look out for geology--earthquake faults, flood plains, liquefaction zones. For some reason the realtors never tell us about that stuff! The gradual flooding of climate change is another concern, whether it is man-made or mother nature.

3:23 PM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Humans forget how much of their day to day life is constructed around the human lifetime. If we lived to a thousand years old instead of 80 we wouldn't live in a lot of places that don't really bother us that much.

And the scale of our interest rates is defined by our lifetime. If humans lived extremely short lives, present interest rates would not pay enough to make it worthwhile, and if we lived much longer, the present rates would allow too large a percent of the population to retire and live off of income.

Even our economic booms and busts move to a period defined by how long it takes a new generation of investors to arise who are unaware of the lessons of the past.

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