Friday, April 12, 2013

One of my favorite topics of interest is that of microbial life living in extreme environments. These creatures used to be distant topics in Biology but now receive a lot of attention due to many beliefs that analogous organisms could live on other bodies in our solar system: Mars, Europa, Titan, (the Titan link is a BBC video), Enceladus, Ceres. Looking at the picture below you can see where we find these organisms on Earth. The icy moons that NASA and others are so interested in could potentially allow life to develop. Designing, launching and successfully getting an ice penetrating probe to Europa for example is decades away, if not longer. Once we get to Europa, getting through kilometers of ice will be incredibly difficult. Europa is so cold and its ocean so deep beneath the ice, I would be very surprised (but still excited!) if any cellular life has evolved there. So called "Chaos" regions have scientist most excited as these regions might contain subsurface lakes. Lake Vostoc is the closest thing we have and I do not think it makes a good comparison as the life in it possibly (if any) evolved under different conditions and then adapted to a changing environment. Regardless, extremophiles are super cool organisms that deserve to be known about and discussed in the mainstream.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mention Campi Flegrei and most people will not know what you are talking about - even many scientist. It's a potential threat to our lush western lifestyle. Like Yellowstone National Park, the entire northwest Bay of Naples is in fact, one large super volcano. Everyone has heard of Vesuvius and its famous eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum but few have heard of the larger volcanic network that poses a much greater threat to all of Europe and potentially the planet. Scientist can measure noticeable bradyseism as the magma chamber under the bay as it expands and contracts.

I love this image. Europe is crowded and people have built right up to - and even into the craters. Go to Google Earth and zoom in on the craters and you can see the developments inside them. Eruptions occurring from Super Volcanoes are few and far between and modern society has not seen one. Lucky you're here - Lake Toba almost got us....We really have no idea what to expect if one of these giant volcanoes erupts. It might just be an "ashy" nuisance for a few months (devastating only local regions) or it could set us all back to living as people did in centuries past.

Sadly, no matter how advanced we get, how many space rockets we build and how many subatomic particles we find - I do not think we will ever be able to control these forces. We might be able to predict an event down to a few years before an eruption, but never stop one. My final thought on the subject is to travel and enjoy the magnificent Italian countryside as much as possible and enjoy the incredible scenery (due to plate tectonics) and the  rich soils that allow for complex wine chemistry and abundant food production.