06 May 2006

Mountin' the mountain, the b-b-b-biiiiig b-b-b-b-aaaang, VW, Wright car

CNN (in its way) asks what one does with a whacking great Washington mountain, particularly one which has already exploded, killed nearly 70 people (around 1980-ish, IIRC) and laid waste to many square miles (US context) with an over-5 Richter-scale groundshock and huge/fast/hot gas/mud/lava discharges. To say practically nothing, of course, about the jaw-dropping geology and ecology tossed together in days or sometimes mere minutes.

The mountain’s reaction, according to a year and a half’s study by the USGS, has been a startling growth spurt. Rather than go out with another bang — as one might “learnedly” expect — to my surprise, the mountain has grown 100m-scale rock wedgey things at a rate of a couple of m a day.

The large, anachronistic wedge-like rocks stand out of the mountain peak quite distinctly, as if a child was asked what they’d like to see done and answered with a bulldozer-bladed Meccano dream toy. They’re backed with serious amounts of hot lava/mud etc, so they’re not just pumice (or Meccano) dream-clouds. There’s a photo in the CNN article which was taken through the side of the (justly) w[å]ndering helicopter, which gives quite a good rendition of the sheer solidity of the rocks.

The [UK] Guardian, meanwhile, has moved up a scale or two with its report — no measley little US states at risk here, people, the entire Universe is on the line.

“The universe is at least 986 billion years older than physicists thought and is probably much older still” states science writer James Randerson, of a Neil Turok (a theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge) study which says, in effect, “What we are proposing is very radical. It’s saying there was time before the big bang.”

Well, it looks like a pretty enviable attempt to rewrite some amazingly old dates to make more room for some — well — imaginative theories. I’d expect at least wholehearted support from the many science factions which have a vested interest or two in using the time potentially bought by the rewrite. Seeing other supporters should be... educational, in its own way. Quoting again:

Today most cosmologists believe the universe will carry on expanding until all the stars burn out, leaving nothing but their cold dead remains. But there is an inherent problem with this picture. The Cosmological Constant - a mysterious force first postulated by Albert Einstein that appears to be driving the galaxies apart - is much too small to fit the theory. Einstein later renounced it as his "biggest blunder".

Eh? Talk about a serious rewrite underway! Perhaps Albert really, really earned those infamous smiles he’s so often photographically posed with?

Like cars? Try flaming this up or electrifying this a tad.

1 comment:

Leon Brooks said...

Read a fascinating (and not linkable) wise-acre user comment on the emerging rocks at MSH — someone should use them to validate existing isotopic dating methods or try out new ones; since (presumably) these rocks have no fossils within, they must by definition be preCambrian.

Hearing the variety of explanations from learned (wo)men on why this would fail should be quite an education in itself.

Hearing people claiming to have lived “just next door” to preCambrian would be above and beyond a total hoot, too. (-: I guess I’d need to heal a little more prior to hearing that :-)