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back to article We all owe our EXISTENCE to lovely VOLCANOES, say boffins

Research by the British Antarctic Survey has found that volcanos played a crucial role in preserving life when our world went through one of its periodic ice ages. From time to time in Earth's history, the planet cools and an ice cover extends from the poles to cover large sections of the planet's surface. It's even hypothesized …

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Interesting map

That indicates "E <-> W" at the South Pole.

Somebody ought to know that it should be "N <-> N" if they had a geography class.

Yes, I can clearly say "Been there, done that! (and have a photo to prove it!)"

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Big Brother

Re: Interesting map

Maybe somebody realized that, while "N <-> N" might be more correct in a pedantic way, it is also a pretty pointless notation. Whereas "W <-> E" provides a useful reference set, even if its correctness can be disputed.

But I guess not everyone realizes that reference systems such as cardinal points are largely arbitrary, and should be used and / or abused to the degree they are useful. After all, it's not like the Geography Police will peruse your maps to check if you are using the "right" marks...

OR IS IT?! (TUM DUM DU-U-U-UMMM...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting map @Herby

"and have a photo to prove it!"

Prove it then.

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Re: Interesting map

>>"But I guess not everyone realizes that reference systems such as cardinal points are largely arbitrary"

They're not arbitrary. Something like UTC being defined by a particular longitude (the Greenwich Meridian) is arbitrary. The fact that we use the words "East" and "West" rather than "George" and "Cuthbert" is arbitrary. But the Cardinal Points of a compass are not arbitrary. They're derived from the rotation of the Earth. It wouldn't make sense to say that North is defined as being at a 32 degree angle from Ayer's Rock for example. Angle against what anyway? You've just discounted using the axis of the planet. You could say "North" is the line that traces between Stone Henge and the Eiffel Tower and extends globally. That would be an arbitrary definition. But our actual compass is anything but arbitrary. It has a very real, non-arbitrary foundation.

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Re: Interesting map

But the Cardinal Points (...) [are] derived from the rotation of the Earth.

And the metre is derived from the speed of light, but that doesn't make it any less arbitrary than the yard.

Of course, if we are going to have a system for describing directions on the Earth's crust, we might as well base it on some physical phenomenon that we can use as reference, and the Earth's rotation is arguably the best option. But the choice is still "arbitrary" in the sense that nothing (short of common sense) would prevent us from adopting a different system, however awkward the alternative might be.

As in, say, Imperial units.

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Re: Interesting map

>>"And the metre is derived from the speed of light, but that doesn't make it any less arbitrary than the yard."

No, the metre is defined in terms of the speed of light. It isn't derived from it. The metre existed as a unit of measurement long, long before the speed of light was known. In contrast, East and West are derived from the rotation of the Earth. The movement was noticed (or inferred from the Sun's apparent transition if you like) and names applied. The metre and the yard are both arbitrary because people just decided that's the length they'd standardise on. The Cardinal Points of the compass are not arbitrary because they are derived from pre-existing observable circumstances that have logical virtues over choosing something else. such as an arc traced between Stonehenge and the Eiffel Tower.

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PK

Re: Interesting map

Surely that just means east and west hemispheres, not directions?

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Coat

Re: Interesting map

Let me see if I'm clear, the metre is defined in terms of the speed of light and the second is arbitrarily defined in terms of Cesium 133 ground state transitions so when speaking of the speed of light, presumably in a vacuum as opposed to a hoover, we mean it's nearly 1.8 linguine per Cesium tick. Now that that's settled, is Stonehenge the Norse Pole and the Eiffel Tower the Seine Pole or is it something else?

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Coat

Past ice ages?

past ice ages – the most recent of which ended less than 20,000 years ago

Who says the ice age is over? Technically we are just in a interglacial period. The ice could come back any time soon. (Soon being relative - when we are talking about geological time scales).

Mine's the thick one with hot-water bottles in the pockets.

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Re: Past ice ages?

You're right of course, but "the past Ice Age / the past glaciation" is often used to informally refer to the last time the world was cluttered with ice. And highly as we might regard it, El Reg is well into the "informal" range of the scientific media spectrum.

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Re: Past ice ages?

But--but---but the climate change people say it's over and we're all doomed.

Disclaimer - This is in jest if you're a CC type and semi-serious is you're not.

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Re: Past ice ages?

"Technically we are just in a interglacial period"

Equally, by those principles, the ice ages are merely interwarm periods. Now that is arbitrary.

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Re: Past ice ages?

There is another kind of Godwin's Law for El Reg: as a commentard discussion progresses the probability of some commentard mentioning Climate Change approaches 1. What name can we give this law?

p.s. For articles which mention weather/glaciers/geology/Antarctica, the probability is already at least 0.9 before the first post even happens!

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Turns out

Ice worms like a nice sauna too.

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Re: Turns out

Yay, well done, guy. An ON-TOPIC comment!

If you drill down into the supporting information [pnas.org, PDF], though, it's a long way from supporting the hypothesis that my great^n-grandparents shacked up near a volcano to sit out a glaciation, or even that ice-worms like a sauna.

The study looked at estimated and observed species richness, and which models best predicted it, for plants, for fungi, and for invertebrates. Plant and fungal richness were both frequently best described by models including volcanism, or distance from it, but invertebrates? Hardly ever.

Of course, invertebrates are mobile in ways that plants and fungi are not, so you might expect the volcanic proximity effect to be wiped out more quickly as the glaciation recedes.

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Coat

Wow

Decepticon island.....that's gonna be so sweet with it's robots and stuff.

*the one with the ripped dictionary in the pocket

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The baseline temperature for Earth is set by variable internal fission of the 2 million cubic miles of Uranium and Thorium that DO NOT have a constant decay rate. Fission is a function of particle bombardment which includes solar and cosmic sources, as well as the particles released by the fission itself. Concentrating fissionable material reaches critical mass and rapid increases in fission. We have been LIED to about Earth science, see the Geo-nuclear tab at FauxScienceSlayer for more on this climate changing force, the cause of Glacial-Interglacial baseline temperature changes.

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Confused

Who said it was, I thought this article was about the preservation of life under ice in volcanic hotspots. The major cause of which is plate tectonics and mantle hotspots driven by the Earths molten core and gravitational distortion of the crust by the moon.

Also the article's title warrants the word "may", there's conflicting evidence on the snowball earth scenario, mind you not such a catchy headline.

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Don't feed the troll.

Especially one this delusional.

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"The Planet Cools"

Not really. In an ice age the SURFACE of the planet cools. The vast bulk of it doesn't. Why would the core, mantle or lower crust care if the top 0.01% is solid rather than liquid?

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repeated genetic bottlenecks?

I'd read this as a mechanism that would induce genetic similarity over a wide geographical area as a population repeatedly re-expanded from a relatively few individuals. Can one tell much about genetic diversity from invertebrates? I assume so but I'm more SQL than DNA...

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Alien

Cthulhu, Lovecraft, Mountains, Madness etc.

... message ends

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