back to article Scientists discover supervolcano trigger that could herald humanity's doom

European scientists think they've found the trigger mechanism for the eruption of supervolcanoes, the most violent and dangerous natural disasters on Earth. magma Earth's forever blowing bubbles Unlike traditional volcanoes, which are easily identifiable by their mountainous shape, supervolcanoes lurk far underneath the …

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  1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
    Devil

    So much for that idea

    This should put paid to any sort of foolishness about an anthrocentric universe. Quite the contrary, Earth itself is just waiting to kill us.

    1. smartermind

      Re: So much for that idea

      The Earth is not "waiting to kill humanity"

      Your daft idea itself suggests an Anthropocentric Earth. The Earth couldn't "careless" whether humanity exists or not... it will just go blindly on. If coincidentally a supervolcano erupts, then humans may die, but the earth is not gunning for this to happen.

      1. jgarbo
        Mushroom

        Re: So much for that idea

        Lighten up. I think Maddox was being facetious. Personally I fear it's a cockroach conspiracy to set off supervolcanoes, because they know they'll be the only survivors...

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

          Re: So much for that idea

          I already referenced this when we had the remote-control cockroach story a month or two back, but here is more Joe's Apartment. Comedy, or terrifying glimpse of our cockroach-infested future?

          http://www.metacafe.com/watch/572706/joe_apartment/

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Coat

          Re: So much for that idea

          "Personally I fear it's a cockroach conspiracy to set off supervolcanoes, because they know they'll be the only survivors..."

          You've just left me with the unpleasant image of a blattopteran Dr. Evil, issuing commands:

          "Initiate... 'Project VULCAN!..."

      2. Greg D

        Re: So much for that idea

        Does a "smartermind" come at the deficit of a sense of humour?

        1. smartermind
          FAIL

          Re: So much for that idea

          @Greg D - 'Does a "smartermind" come at the deficit of a sense of humour?'

          Ha Ha, very funny, How droll and original (Not)!

          1. Greg D
            FAIL

            Re: So much for that idea

            You're still not getting it are you?

      3. LeeS

        Re: So much for that idea

        Careless with the phrase "care less" there Smarter.... Always funny when some clever sod cocks up!

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: So much for that idea

      "Earth itself is just waiting to kill us."

      I've been telling people this for decades.

  2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm(dot)confused.

      Are you obfuscating your site to avoid spam? That appears hypocritical considering the tone of your post.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's some quite polished looking SPAM you've got there.

    3. Wzrd1

      Actually, a supervolcano eruption would lower the surface temperature of the Earth by approximately 10 degrees.

      Anthropogenic climate change happens to be approximately 10 degrees hotter.

      So, if anything, the two would cancel each other out *and* relieve the Earth of some annoying Chumpanzees.

      1. Fibbles

        "Anthropogenic climate change happens to be approximately 10 degrees hotter."

        I realise your post was tongue in cheek but where'd you get that figure from? Even the IPCC only predicts a 2C rise.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Wzrd1

        Unfortunately the two would not cancel out. There's the annoying dust in the air still to deal with, the unwanted minerals poisoning the surviving plants, and the extra thermal energy dumped into the atmosphere causing severe weather events. Harvests are going to be practically nonexistent and there are likely to be periods when the air isn't very breathable.

        This is one that, if it happens, happens with no chance of a fix being discovered (unlike asteroid collisions). But I expect that the 1% will survive in their shelters with their ten years of tinned food, stockpiles of medicines, oil, you name it. For what it's worth.

    4. mark 63 Silver badge

      climate change

      dont worry about reducing our emissions, mankind in no way has the self disapline to make anything but a token effort. if it esult in losing cash or lowering the standard of living it aint gonna happen.

      voluntarily that is

      luckily, (depending on your pov) we have almost run out of stuff to burn, we are going to be responsible wether we like it or not.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: climate change

        And some poster do not have the self-discipline to spell correctly.

        > we have almost run out of stuff to burn

        LOLNO. The 70s called, they want their "out of oil but 'fraid of nukes" crap back.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      With supervolcano's being much more dangerous, having much dire consequences, that Climate Change, it is completely obvious that we must prepare to save future generations from said supervolcano's. This is mandated by the Precautionary Principle, that excellent principle that Climate Changers have shown us to be the sole source of wisdom for deciding on future actions. Consider, a drop in global temperature o 10 degrees (Celcius, one assumes). That will result in freezing everybody outside the tropics, and even worse, giving everybody in the tropics the same climate as the UK. Which is unimaginably worse than giving everybody tropical weather, and a few people in Greenland the kind of weather that the UK enjoys now.

      Mars, here we come.

  3. fearnothing

    Dr Malfait said that overpressure in the magma chamber would cause the ground above to rise "hundreds of metres" in advance of the eruption proper. Now I'm no geologist, but that kind of change in topology would hint to me that something funny was going on. Of course, I'm sure there's some sound journalistic reason for your having said there would be "no warning" in spite of the above.

    Source: BBC News

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25598050

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Bulging in advance

      "... cause the ground above to rise "hundreds of metres" in advance of the eruption"

      Right. So you see this big bulge which says that there'll be a supervolcano there in 1000 years or so. What next? (I mean seriously, not unreasonable dreams like living on Mars.) I think there might be a bit of social breakdown.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Bulging in advance

        > I think there might be a bit of social breakdown.

        I don't think so. We have been living with nukes on hairtrigger alert since the 50's. Even in 2014 "liburl" presidents are throwing 100 billion dollars that they don't have into a "refresher project". No-one gives a f*ck.

    2. Martin Budden

      Rising a hundred metres over what time? If it happened over one month then we'd all notice and do a bit of basic planning. If it happened over a thousand years then one might blow tomorrow, because most of the world has only been mapped very recently.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Rising a hundred metres over what time?"

        When Mount St Helens erupted in 1980 it had developed a 'bulge' of around 150m, which had been recorded as growing at a rate of upto 2m per day. I'm guessing a supervolcano would probably feel the need to prove it's superiority to a regular volcano by growing a lot quicker - it's got to justify that 'super' title!

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Now I'm no geologist, but that kind of change in topology would hint to me that something funny was going on.

      And ... what?

      1. Discover supervolcano is about to explode in next N units-of-your-choice

      2. ????

      3. Survive!

      These things severely alter conditions on the entire planet for several years. The ash bed from the last VEI 7 event at Yellowstone covered more than half of the contiguous USA, and Yellowstone and other supervolcanoes have produced VEI 8 events as well as 7s. Where are you going to emigrate to? How long will it take you to get ready? How many people can your plan accommodate.

      Here's what'll happen when the next supervolcano goes: Most people on Earth will die. Whether they know it's coming won't make a damn bit of difference to the survival rate.

  4. Retiredgerald

    Once every 100,000 years, or so. Don't worry, we have a long time to wait for the next one. Very funny, I wish probabilities actually worked that way. By that logic since the Yellowstone hot spot erupted 650,000 years ago on a 650,000 cycle, run, it due to happen tomorrow! A die doesn't always come up a 6 every 6 rolls. Plus there are many things that can happen to disrupt a natural cycle. But don't worry anyway, not much we can do about it if one of the twenty blows tomorrow.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Mushroom

      The valley floor in Yellowstone is expanding too!

      Be afraid, be very afraid!

    2. scrubber
      Paris Hilton

      Terrible stats from the author

      @Retiredgerald

      Have an upvote for getting there before me.

      One thing though, why limit it to one, why not have a few pop their corks at once (geologically speaking)? Could be an extinction event for us if a few went.

      Paris, as statistically speaking I should be shagging her next week.

    3. Annihilator
      Boffin

      Statistically speaking, I'm a man, if I live in the world. In the UK though, statistically I'm a woman.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        And if you live in Thailand?

    4. JLV Silver badge

      >I wish probabilities actually worked that way

      Ummm, yes and no.

      First, I upvoted you, because you make a generally very valid point. But an individual volcano's activity is not like a dice's, where each event is independent of the next.

      My area has magnitude 9 earthquakes about every 500 years, with a wide variation around that average. Last was in 1700. Since subduction earthquakes are about stress relief, pops will happen when enough stress has built up over time. It probably won't happen just 50 years after a quake. Nor will it likely wait for 5000.

      Throwing 20 supervolcanoes with gradual magma buildup cycles in the mix does validate your argument quite a bit as their activity is not linked and their eruption cycles have different periods. So the result is likely to be a lot more random than if we looked at just one volcano.

    5. Eddy Ito Silver badge
      Coat

      Oddly the article illustrates your point quite nicely if unintentionally.

      The Lake Toba supervolcano in Indonesia erupted around 74,000 years ago...

      the Oruanui eruption, blew off just 26,500 years ago

      So it's good within an order of magmatude. Don't suppose the coat would help much if one goes off.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. keith_w

      100,000 years? I dont think so

      The article did mention that the one in Indonesia exploded 74,000 years ago, and another 26,000 years ago, so that sound like a 48-50 thousand year occurrence to me, so we should expect one sometime in the next 24,000 years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 100,000 years? I dont think so

        "The article did mention that the one in Indonesia exploded 74,000 years ago, and another 26,000 years ago, so that sound like a 48-50 thousand year occurrence to me, so we should expect one sometime in the next 24,000 years."

        That logic relies on the assumption that they occur on a regular basis, and aren't following another pattern. It would be interesting to find out when the erruption previous to the one in Indonesia occurred - it that was around 150,000 years ago, we could conclude that the period between erruptions decreases by around 25,000 years after each event... and we are therefore already overdue for the next one!

        So, it could be any day now? Bring it on... at least then I won't have to listen to everyone whining about their New Years diets any more! ;)

  5. jbell

    So perhaps if we can fracture (frack) enough of a layer of the Earth's crust, we could enable the Yellowstone super volcano to let go. Fracking could go down in geological history as the dumbest things humans ever did.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Mushroom

      So perhaps if we can fracture (frack) enough of a layer of the Earth's crust, we could enable the Yellowstone super volcano to let go its pressure before it blows. Fracking could go down in geological history as the best thing humans ever did.

      FTFY. By judicious drilling, you might be able to create a volcano 10km from a city, rather than risk it blowing at a random outlet in the area. I don't know if the technology exists (yet) to create a vent-hole to that depth, but you might be able to get some payback from geothermal energy. Gotta be better than waiting & hoping...

      Ground zero at the fracture site ------>

      1. dr2chase

        I think the scale has eluded you.

        10km from a supervolcano is nowhere near safe. Consider "Lahars from Mount Rainier can travel for tens of miles along river valleys and reach Puget Sound." Mount Rainier is just a run-of-the-mill volcano. http://geology.com/usgs/rainier/

        Or Mount Saint Helens: "The May 18, 1980 blast devastated 596 square kilometers". Note that a 10km radius circle only has an area of 314 square kilometers.

        1. Killraven

          Re: I think the scale has eluded you.

          Also keep in mind that the Yellowstone Supervolcano was partly discovered via a 1-meter layer of ash that covered Nebraska. A tish more than 10 km distant.

    2. Wzrd1

      Actually, a controlled pressure release from some bores *could* prevent an eruption.

      Of course, we're talking about a *lot* of magma and gas being vented to avoid an eruption.

      1. dssf

        Maybe some trillionaires in combination will concoct a plan to vent it into the sea, or via an umbilical into the sky... Maybe a magnetic constrictor coil, surrounded by a high-flux, magneton-polerized, tetrion-augmented poleron array can direct it above the Aurora Borealis...

        But, first, we'll need to construct a Dyson Sphere to contain the energy to redirect it back into the Meson Grid....

        LaForge!!!! Enough! Another time, perhaps...

    3. dssf

      Like peeling the skin off of a bad blister or boil? Or letting an "Eartheurism"?

      Hahaha, warning of a 100 meters bulge across a month allows some basic planning? Would not that be about 3 meters a day? 27' a day in SF or SJ or LA would spell disaster. After just 5 days, the streets would be too steep for safe vehicular negotiation, meaning most sites of import would need helicopters or super-suped up moving vans or tractor rigs on ever-standby, meaning looting, riots, violence, pilfering, and more, on a glacial 30-day spread, even slower than the Earth-busting in that movie, what, 2012?, if I recall.

      If it 300 meters in over a month, then roughly 30 meters a day? 100' a day? Scary indeed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @dssf

        "If it 300 meters in over a month, then roughly 30 meters a day? 100' a day? Scary indeed."

        Do your months only have 10 days?

    4. Green Nigel
      Mushroom

      Balloon

      Ever tried venting a balloon by piercing its skin!

      This is the risk you take by franking around with things you don't fully understand!

      1. scrubber

        Re: Balloon

        Yes, you cover it with tape first to prevent catastrophic destruction.

        1. Green Nigel

          Re: Balloon

          True, but this balloon is not regular in shape, material type, temperature, strength & pressure. So where you stick your tape is going to be critical, and could make things worse and of course it can't loose it's stickyness

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Balloon

          So...stop funding nukes and start funding the biggest Duck Tape factory in the world? 20km wide rolls would be a starting point. Of course, how to tear bits off is left as an exercise for the reader.

    5. Smallbrainfield

      It didn't end well in Mega City One when terrorists attacked Power Tower

      Be careful what you wish for, citizen.

  6. Francis Vaughan

    Probability

    "But there's no need to panic just yet – as far as the scientist can tell the Earth suffers a supervolcano blast roughly every 100,000 years or so and the last one, the Oruanui eruption, blew off just 26,500 years ago"

    I think I should introduce you to my friend Andrey. Andrey Markov that is. He had a few words to say about processes like this. Logic such as the above only works in movies.

    As to "without warning" you do need to remember you are talking to geologists, and they tend to think in slightly different time scales to the rest of us.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Probability

      "As to "without warning" you do need to remember you are talking to geologists, and they tend to think in slightly different time scales to the rest of us."

      Not all. Remember, volcanologists think in both long and extremely short timescales.

      If they see the earth bulging up tens of meters, they think in extremely short timescales. And rapidly depart the area.

    2. Ralph B

      Re: Probability and Mathematics

      Never mind the probability, exactly how long do we think it would take to get 7billion people off the planet. (And to where exactly?)

      Still I suppose we might just be able to change "We're all doomed!" to "We're almost entirely all doomed!"

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Probability and Mathematics

        Not a problem. The president and selected members of the military-congressional-industrial complex will suffer with you - from orbit.

        As long as you regularly paid your social security "contributions", that is. Give generously!

        1. Midnight

          Re: Probability and Mathematics

          Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

      2. druck Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Probability and Mathematics

        We wont get 7 billion off the planet, so we'll need to cross off a few names. Lets start with all those who wont be able to get along in a tin can travelling through space, because they have arguments over who's flying spaghetti monster is best.

  7. Paul Uszak

    Bye

    I'm booking my trip to Mars now. Anyone know the phone number for Virgin?

    1. MrDamage
      Joke

      Re: Bye

      Why Virgin? By their very name you know they wont go all the way.

  8. Faux Science Slayer

    Earth has over 2 million cubic miles of fissionable Uranium and Thorium which decay at variable rates due to cosmic particle bombardments. By-products of this fission process are enormous amounts of heat, causing expansion and 'elemental' atoms which occupy more space than the parent atoms, causing pressure. Most likely, it is a clusters of fissionable material reaching critical mass and a rapid decay process causing eruptions. One 'elemental' atom is Radon, which is Inert, forming NO compounds and having a half life of 3.8 days. See "Unified Earth Science Theory" at Canada Free Press, May 2010 and the Geo-nuclear tab at Faux Science Slayer site.

    BTW...changes in the Earth's fission rate set the base line temperature for 'climate' change....

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      FAIL

      "Most likely, it is a clusters of fissionable material reaching critical mass and a rapid decay process causing eruptions."

      When do we finally get that "lauhging elf" icon?

      1. Swarthy Silver badge
        WTF?

        ""Most likely, it is a clusters of fissionable material reaching critical mass and a rapid decay process causing eruptions."

        When do we finally get that "lauhging elf" icon?"

        ..Or the "You are completely insane" voting button?

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          ..Or the "You are completely insane" voting button?"

          You, sir, are a genius! (upvoted)

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      FAIL

      Are you absolutely sure your handle shouldn't be 'Faux Science Sayer', because what you just wrote was a fair example of pseudoscientific gibberish.

      Whilst it is well accepted that the Earth's internal heat comes from radioactive decay, there's no 'critical mass' going on - most of the radioactive elements in question are well diluted in the large mass of metal that makes up the Earth's core, which is mostly iron and nickel, the heat from their decay being conducted/convected to the mantle. Even if the decay products are gaseous, single atoms of these these will still remain well dissolved in the outer core, or form atomic inclusions in the inner core.

      Also, it is worth noting that the volume you quote for the amount of fissionable material is tiny compared to the erth's volume of 260 billion cubic miles, representing 1 part in 130,000, and that the half-lives of uranium 235 and thorium are 700 million years and 14 billion years respectively.

      1. ian 22

        You are TheManFromMars and I claim my £5.

        Faux Science-Slayer indeed. You need a bit more grunt to slay science.

  9. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Boffin

    I can't help thinking that the guy in the photo, watching the experimental magma rig, is a little optimistic about the ability of his safety specs to protect him if the rig fails and releases 1700 degree C rock at 36000 atms into the room.

    1. dssf

      Lenses...

      Maybe his filter is "Ohm mani Pad ma Ohm.... Make me ONE with the UniWerse..."...

    2. Chris Miller

      The amount of magma in the rig is << 1 cubic millimetre.

      1. Michael Dunn

        @ Chris Miller

        "The amount of magma in the rig is << 1 cubic millimetre."

        Still burn a good sized hole in a safety-spec lens, and the material behind it!

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: @ Chris Miller

          Typical sample sizes are of the order of 1 thou. inch in each dimension (using proper British units!)

          I suspect that the sample wouldn't make it through the air between the rig and the operator...

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Alistair MacRae

    Fit a slow release valve?

    I have visions of those nozzles you push into orange/milk cartons to pour with.

    Hammer that in the ground with a screw lid.

    You're welcome humanity!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fit a slow release valve?

      and if you open it at the right intervals you could move the earth slightly further away from the sun and hence combat global warming at the same time !

  11. VinceH Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Optional

    "It had been thought that you'd need a large earthquake to set a supervolcano off"

    Don't be silly. An easier way to trigger one is to enter one of a number of control codes into my phone.

    1. Ralph B

      Re: Optional

      What are you haarping on about?

  12. lglethal Silver badge
    Joke

    Anyone got a map?

    Anyone got a map where these 20 supervolcanoes are?

    I swear I'm just looking for where I dont want to build my house, I am not looking for where I should build my evil lairs with which I can hold the entire world hostage. Honest...

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Anyone got a map?

      I don't think you get the scale of these things. You're probably going to want to build your house on a different planet.

    2. Jos

      Re: Anyone got a map?

      A good start is here:

      http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/index2.php

      Scroll down to get to the list of supervolcanoes.

      Cheers

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Anyone got a map?

        It's actually like living on the upper layer of a lava lamp.

        Ohh... the nice colors.

  13. Rosie Davies

    "...Lake Toba supervolcano in Indonesia erupted around 74,000 years ago..."

    "...Earth suffers a supervolcano blast roughly every 100,000 years..."

    "...the last one, the Oruanui eruption, blew off just 26,500 years ago..."

    Either my maths is really, _really_ broken or the article is suffering from some internal consistency problems. A bit like the magma really.

    Rosie

    1. Nigel 11

      Statistics

      No consistency problems. Erruptions of different supervolcanoes are not correlated. Erruption times of a single supervolcano are vaguely cyclical, but not anything like clockwork. So the earth has had two go pop in the last 100K years, and may have none go pop in the next 100K years, averaging out as one every 100K years.

      In reality (a) you'd have to average over a few Myears to get meaningful statistics, and (b) the Yellowstone supervolcano is likely to go pop in the geological near future. (Say in the next 100k years with probability 0.7 or higher).

    2. Steven Jones

      Statistics

      Two supervolcano eruptions in the last 75,000 years is not inconsistent with a supervolcano blast every 100,000 years assuming that such events are random in nature, The wording of the article in this respect is rather unfortunate in that it rather implies some regularity and might have been better expressed as a probability of 1 in 100,000 of a supervolcano eruption in any one year.

      If such events can be treated as purely random, then it would follow a Poisson distribution and it would therefore be expected that there will be some periods when there are more frequent occurrences than the long run average (and some periods when there will be fewer). Of course, the likelihood is that it's not completely random as, presumably, an eruption in one place might well release pressure elsewhere, but it's even less likely that there is some sort of global clock which dictates the timing of such events at regular intervals.

      Nb. the article also implies that the eruptions are on some sort of timetable, albeit in some apparently (weak) jocular sense about the time we have to colonise other planets.

  14. PyLETS

    No more volcanologists or seismologists

    If any other countries follow Italy's lead, I can't think of a job any school leaver would want less after Italy locked up 6 scientists working in this area for not predicting a quake. So maybe when it happens there'll be no chance of any warning at all because there will be no-one willing to go to jail while learning to get whatever predictions can be done in this space right.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/23/world/europe/italy-quake-scientists-guilty/

  15. frobnicate

    The wrath of Vril-ya!

  16. etabeta

    and I live on top of one of those 20

    No joke, really. It is the Campi Flegrei near Naples, Italy. Hope it doesn't blow soon.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: and I live on top of one of those 20

      Though the "Naples Blows" headline could be humorous....

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: and I live on top of one of those 20

        Definitely no joke. I'd be planning to relocate as soon as reasonably possible. Vesuvius errupts far more often than supervolcanoes. If you leave relocation until there's smoke coming out of the volcano, it may be too late to get yourself (and the entire population of Naples) safely out of town.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only there was a group of people who could help

    A group of people used to working with fluids at high temperatures and insane pressures, with no human interaction physically possible within kilometers of the worksite. World experts in materials science AND geology/geophysical processes working together.

    Oh, that's right. The Offshore Oil industry- of which the UK is the world leader- deals with all this as a matter of routine. Just convince the operators that they can make billions of dollars (maybe selling access to controlled-magma-release wellheads to geothermal power companies) and they'll have the pilot wells ready in a year or two.

  18. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Great!!!

    ...European scientists think they've found the trigger mechanism for the eruption of supervolcanoes, the most violent and dangerous natural disasters on Earth...

    What I want to know is:

    1 - How can I tax people and get them to change their behaviour to minimise the chance of this happening?

    2 - How can I show that the Koch brothers are funding a hidden multi-billion fund for supervolcano denial?

    3 - How can I use this as a justification for a holiday trip for me and my mates to somewhere exotic?

  19. Slawek

    Not a biggie. If humans survived 74k years ago, they (at least some of them) will survive now. Apart from that, greenies always wanted less people on this planet and cooler planet, so at least they will be happy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Slawek

      Doesn't necessarily follow. Humans then were few in number and occupied a mainly hunter/gatherer ecological niche not dependent on any modern technology. Although there are still peoples like that today and they, too, are few in number, habitat destruction means that they might run out of food pretty quickly.

      This does all rather tend to validate the old maxim that in the long run we are all dead. Perhaps I'm going to have to give Lewis Page a free pass on his views on global warming, on the basis that in a timescale similar to the current one for homo sapiens sapiens, it isn't going to matter who was right.

  20. Dropper

    Hold This

    What I love about humans is whenever they find something new, they absolutely have to poke a stick at it to see what happens. Giant pool of lava hiding under the earth? Great news!! Let's see what we need to do to make it explode..

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Hold This

      That will be a bit difficult to do, unless you have a plan of building a Death Star to put major holes into the continental plate?

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Hold This (while I press the big red button)

        Actually it's conceptually easy to trigger a supervolcano erruption. Drill down as far as you can, maybe 500m above the magma, then put a "Tsar Bomba" hundred-megatonne nuke at the bottom and similar nukes every 500m or so all the way to the top, and blow them all at once. Fortunately, I don't think even the leadership of North Korea is quite that crazy. (Scarily, ISTR that there is a supervolcano reservoir inside North Korea's borders).

  21. Roger Stenning
    Coat

    So, boiled down, then...

    ... it'll bulge, then pop? Is this scientist is comparing a supervolcano to a super-sized lethal zit?

    If this is the case, then the solution's simple: Mega-Zap those Mega-Zits with a mega dose of Oxy!

    ahem.

    OK, I'm going, now...!

  22. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    Who's going to start a book on whether it's Jellystone or Naples that blows first?

    US scientists once said "any time in the next 3 to 3000 years..." might seem a long time to you and I, but that's a sniff in Mother Earth's existence.

    Naples - well, "expect an event within decades".

    With the decimation to the population that one of these babies going up could cause, who's going to pay the AGW taxes then? I mean, the Carbon Footprint from Yellowstone would be [Jeremy Clarkson voice] absolutely HUGE [/Jeremy Clarkson voice].

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...covering huge areas with ash hundreds of meters deep which scars the lungs of any animal breathing it in..."

    Somehow I can't help but think that if you're buried under hundreds of meters of ash, lung scarring isn't very high up your list of worries...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. steve 124

    the math doesn't add up

    ok, that last paragraph doesn't make me feel better. It says we see one every 100,000 years or so, but just earlier in the article they sited the Indonesia eruption was 74,000 years ago and then that the last one happened 26,000 years ago. Well, that sounds like at best they happen every 50,000 years or so and we're on the latter half of waiting for the next one.

    Who wants to bet Yosemite will be the next one? <shivers>

  25. ecofeco Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I wouldn't worry too much

    Long before the giant climate warming asteroid hits the super volcano causing deadly sharknados, "teh stupid" will decimate our population.

    Need proof? ---------------------------->>

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Mad" scientists

    Is it just me or does "Project Farcast" aka humanity's first Alcubierre warp driven starship actually have a chance, if for example NASA builds it at the ISS and the US throws Manhattan+Apollo-project level resources at it?

    I tried to tell them how to built it years ago but for some reason they aren't replying to my emails.

    Maybe its time to rack it up a notch and build a prototype, have most of the parts but no funding.

    Thats what you call a Kickstarter methinks, with all the fuss about Mars no-one has considered using all that otherwise useless plutonium to make antimatter onboard to fuel the drive, and HTSCs with the correct geometry and composition for the field coils and drive core.

    BTEDan has the right idea, but he needs to be concentrating on the most effective power source for the available weight, not how to make it safer.

    90% chance of success with a 2% chance of a catastrophic failure is acceptable, with enough containment his idea of just ejecting the malfunctioning nuclear core would work just fine as long as it has several of them in different places on the ship.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Mad" scientists

      "90% chance of success with a 2% chance of a catastrophic failure is acceptable"

      What happens the other 8% of the time?!

      1. andre 2

        Re: "Mad" scientists

        Well 8% is "doesen't work".. which is also fixable.

        I am writing a paper on this as we speak, will post on arXiv or similar asap.

  27. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The ultimate catastrophe flick

    Asteroid is approaching Earth. Size is estimated to be small enough to not destroy more than one continent. General panick subsides after location is determined - evacuation of continent taking place. Amid many social issues caused by the most massive migration ever, the asteroid hits Earth and buries itself in a supervolcano - triggering its eruption.

    Question : which actor will be the plucky scientist realizing what will happen and finding a way to use duct tape to build an Unobtanium protection sphere, thereby saving humanity ?

  28. John Marshall

    Yellowstone is actually overdue an eruption.

    1. Nigel 11

      Overdue?

      It' s not like clockwork, and the timescale is geological. May not happen for hundreds of centuries yet. Hope not.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lance the boil

    why not drill in from the side to relatively slowly vent the gases, something like a aluminum oxide lined tube to allow magma and gas to drain out removing the explosive potential. In the worst case it will at least allow you to aim the explosion away from populated area and ideally into the sea

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how big or small a nuke would we need to set it off

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