Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Here Be Dragons Pt III


Indonesia's Mount Merapi erupted on this day, forcing thousands to flee their homes. On May 27 an earthquake in Java killed 5,800 people. The December 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami killed over 200,000. Who says that fire-breathing monsters don't exist? Earth's violent interior is a subject of urgent study.
We woke before 0200 to climb Gunung Batur at night. This active volcano is 1717 m above sea level, and had its last major eruption in 1963. A 1917 eruption killed thousands and destroyed 60,000 homes. The outer crater is nearly 14 km across, big enough to contain a lake and several villages. Guided by our torches, we felt our way through darkness. At the summit, live steam issued from cracks in the Earth. Right on time, the monkeys joined us to watch the sunrise.
The Sun and volcano may be linked by origin. It has long been a puzzle how the stars collapsed and ignited from the tenuous interstellar gas. The heat of Earth's core, which causes volcanoes and earthquakes yet is critical to life, has also been a mystery. The answers may be related to Hawking radiation.
TOMORROW we look back on the volcano in the light of day, and relate cosmology to the fire beneath us.

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