The Science of the Inevitable Taupo Apocalypse by FIRELANDS Apocalypse Blogger Challenge Winner MJ Wright

Holmes and I are delighted to welcome Piper’s FIRELANDS Apocalypse Blogger Challenge Winner MJ Wright. MJ is one of New Zealand’s most published historians and writers and a heckuva nice guy. His latest release, the Bateman Illustrated History of New Zealand by Matthew Wright, is available now through Fishpond for New Zealand readers. For those of us who do not live in Lord of the Rings Land, keep an eye out for it on Kindle, Kobo, and iPad.

Bateman Illustrated History of New Zealand by Matthew Wright

In addition to a guest post here today and a month-long seat of honor at the upcoming Bayard & Holmes website blog, MJ is today’s featured blogger at Social In Worldwide, Inc., the premier Twitter-driven news and events network of the nation. In fact, I twisted his arm and convinced him to come on board as one of our Social In team.  Look for more of MJ’s excellent work over at Social In DC or at one of the many Social In sites across the nation. Follow MJ on Twitter at @MJWrightNZ.

Congratulations on your win, MJ! We’re so pleased to welcome you here to Bayard & Holmes and to the Social In family.

Author/Historian MJ Wright

Author/Historian MJ Wright

The Science of the Inevitable Taupo Apocalypse

By MJ Wright

A couple of weeks back I read Firelands, debut dystopian thriller by US author Piper Bayard. To call the book fantastic is an understatement. I was hooked from the first pages, dropping the book I was writing myself, despite looming contract deadline, so I could keep reading.

A photo I took a few years ago. Taupo. Not a placid lake filled with trout. Well, it is. But it's also the caldera of one of the world's biggest supervolcanoes. Uh - yay.

Firelands is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the United States has become a theocratic dictatorship – a provocative setting that makes the novel far more than just Hunger Games for grown-ups. Firelands is in a class of its own. A wonderful, insightful, thoughtful and exciting story.

Bayard’s instrument of doom is a supervolcano – Taupo – that casts the world into darkness.  A scenario that’s not just plausible. It’s already happened at least twice.

I live within 260 km of Taupo’s Hatepe vent, so I thought I’d post about the historical apocalypse while scrabbling for my asbestos suit, hard hat and breathing apparatus.

On the face of it, Taupo is a lake with thermal district. The full name is Taupo-nui-a-Tia; ‘the great cloak of Tia’, referring to a flax cloak of the rangitira Tia. It’s often mispronounced. The first syllable rhymes with ‘tow’ as in ‘towing along’. Technically, Taupo should also have a macron over the o, indicating a long vowel. In IPA terms it’s‘tau-poh, which is close.

Photo taken by my wife one day in early 2005 of the Orakei Korako thermal zone just north of Taupo.

Pakeha (white settlers) got to know it in the 1840s. Donald McLean, the dour, God-fearing Presbyterian Scot who trudged into the district in 1846, saw a Christian apocalypse, confiding to his diary that ‘No person could see this place without feeling intensely the awful end of a miserable sinner, when committed to his last home; and may God in His providence prepare us all for such a serious change…’

The science behind that hellish setting emerged only as vulcanology developed through the twentieth century.

Turns out the lake is a caldera, part of an immense volcanic field stretching from Mount Ruapehu  to the Whakatane underwater volcano. The field has erupted many times. White Island is active now, monitored by a webcam and plastic dinosaur.

Geothermal steam from the Taupo system is used to generate power - up to 13 percent of the North Island's needs, in fact. The techniques were developed right here in New Zealand.

Geothermal steam from the Taupo system is used to generate up to 13 percent of the North Island’s power. This is my photo of the Wairakei station. The techniques were developed  in New Zealand.

All are dwarfed by Taupo itself, the centre of the system. The last eruption around 180 AD, from the Hatepe vents near the south of the lake, was modest by Taupo standards, but still cast the world into shadow.

The Oruanui eruption, Taupo, 26,500 BP. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Taupo_2.png

The benchmark remains the Oruanui eruption 26,500 years ago  (earlier analysis cited 22,690 ±230 BP), to the north of the current lake and the world’s last eruption to score 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index – the maximum. Back then, the lake was different, known to paleogeographers as Lake Huka. In 2012, PhD student Aidan Allen discovered the trigger for this cataclysm was likely an earthquake.

The eruption blew out the current lake bed – and more. Everything in the central North Island was destroyed by a fall of ingimbrite some 200 metres deep. Then there were devastating floods. Even the major river, the Waikato, changed its course. Ash fell  as far away as the Chathams.

It was a world cataclysm. Although debate continues over specific triggers for Pleistocene glacial cycles, there is evidence that the worldwide glacial maximum that began 26,500 years ago was pushed, in part, by this eruption. In New Zealand, certainly, a warming period prior to the eruption came to a dead stop afterwards.

Oruanui may not have caused the glacial cycle alone – but  it made things worse. Humanity was nearly wiped out in the deep cold that followed. The downturn seems to have been the last blow for Neanderthals, our cousin species already reduced to the edge of extinction at Gibraltar. It destroyed a nascent H. Sapiens agricultural revolution among the Gravettian culture in what are now Russian steppelands. Had that not been cut short, civilisation might have been with us 20,000 years earlier.

This was the apocalypse, Pleistocene style.

And to give that perspective, the Oruanui blast was itself dwarfed by the Whakamaru eruption in the same zone, 254,000 years ago.

We’ll have warning before the next one. Taupo is monitored by New Zealand’s Geological and Nuclear Sciences department via GPS and seismographic stations. No rubber dinosaur, but hey…

Hopefully it won’t happen in our lifetimes. Because when it does, it will bring the apocalypse. Certainly for New Zealand, maybe the world.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013 

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Iranian Scientist Invents Time Machine

image from Back to the Future

image from Back to the Future

Twenty-seven year old Ali Razeghi, managing director of Iran’s Center for Strategic Inventions, registered “The Aryayek Time Traveling Machine” with his agency. He claims it works up to eight years in the future. Now, if we can just get the Mullahs to use it, they’ll see the can of Whoopass they’re about to open up with their nuclear program.

Click below for the Wired article.

Iran’s New Fake Inventions: Time Machine, ‘Islamic Google Earth’

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Best Selling Author and Bad Boy Cat Herder Les Edgerton wrote an outstanding series offering writing tips on dialogue over at Best Selling Author Kristen Lamb’s site. A Final Word from Les Edgerton–Fortune Favors the Prepared

Interesting info Queen Cleopatra by Colin Falconer at Write on the River. Was she really Liz Taylor’s doppleganger? CLEOPATRA, the Queen Who Would Be King

French President’s Gift Camel Killed and Eaten In Timbuktu. Mali gave a camel to French President Francois Hollande. Apparently, the Timbuktu family in charge of caring for the gift got hungry. But no worries. The people of Mali found a “bigger and better looking camel” to replace it.

Join Emily Cannell and check out her beautiful pictures of Cherry Blossom Season in Japan. My Corporate Failure and Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms by Emily Cannell

Cherry Blossoms by Emily Cannell

Have you got backup? Jenny Hansen has some great tips for never getting caught without your info. H is for “Help Me Computer, For I Have Sinned”

I don’t usually go for poetry, but this short piece of Smplefy’s hit the spot the other day. The Day Begins NOW

Several of my favorite people have new books out. Check out Patricia Sand’s post for the list. It’s Stacy’s Birthday Bash!

Seriously. How cool is this? Thank you to Laura Reiser Ellis for the link.

Campaign Style Poll Daddy Question of the Week

All the best to all of you for a week of living in the day.

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

To receive our infrequent newsletters and notices of our book releases, click here onBayard & Holmes Newsletter. We will not, under any circumstances, share your email with any foreign operatives, phone solicitors, or grasping DHS agents.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Bayard & Holmes Youth Achievement Cyber-Hug 2013

By Jay Holmes

In order to give my tired brain a break from the often painful world of foreign policy, I did some recreational reading today. The vacation from our world’s wars and genocides did me good. I found some great information about a couple of young people who deserve recognition and national cyber-hugs.

Unlike real-time hugs, cyber-hugs avoid the danger of exposing these fine youngsters to that odd sadistic creep relative who finds every chance to squeeze the breath out of children. The awardees will be thrilled to know that neither this dangerous old crank nor anyone else will actually be showing up at their house expecting to touch them.

The truth is that I haven’t yet discussed the particulars of how we would handle such an award with my writing partner, Piper Bayard. But have no fear. Piper is busy tonight doing more of that “work” stuff that our “working relationship” requires.

Piper is a bright and judicious attorney. She managed to get through law school without asking me to help any of her fellow students or her professors stumble upon any unfortunate accidents, so I know she is good at thinking like a lawyer. Furthermore, she had the good sense to enlist the aid of our world class publishing attorney and historical mystery author, Ms. Susan Spann. Susan knows her stuff. Between Susan and Piper, I am confident that details of this award will be well managed.

Sara Volz, image from Facebook

Sara Volz, image from Facebook

This year, we have a two-way tie for our first Bayard and Holmes Youth Achievement Award. The first amazing young person is a 17-year-old scientist by the name of Sara Volz from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Sarah converted a space in her bedroom into a science lab. She is using that lab to research algae as biofuel.

Thus far, algae have proven to be stingy in the amount of oil they give us in exchange for the polluted waters that we so generously share with them. Sara uses artificial selection to find algae with a better work ethic that produce more oil. The implications of this 17-year-old’s work seem very significant. Intel also thinks it’s significant. Her research won the Intel Science Talent Search and was awarded $100,000, which she indicated she will use for her education.

Note to oil executives. Leave her alone. My bad guys are better than your bad guys, and I know where you and your surplus significant others all live. Do not disturb this child.

Note to DOE. We give you folks vast sums of cash, and you burn it faster than a gaggle of drunken Secret Service agents in a Colombian house of ill repute. Pay attention. Ill-conceived DOE Director Bill Richardson is long gone, and you people should be producing more science again. If you were operating at this girl’s level of efficiency, I would already have a safe-to-use, pocket-sized fusion generator fueled by toxic waste and surplus body fat. If you haven’t hired this young lady yet, you need to come to your senses and do so ASAP.

Jonah Kallenbach, image from Intel.com

Jonah Kallenbach, image from Intel.com

Our other awardee is a 17-year-old named Jonah Kallenbach of Ambler, Pennsylvania. Jonah won second place in the Intel Science Talent Search for his groundbreaking work with proteins along with $75,000. Unfortunately, I don’t understand Jonah’s work well enough to explain it you. Fortunately, Jonah does understand it. The upshot is that he is discovering how to get proteins to react better with medications. The long term implications for the health of cranky old guys like me are very significant.

Wow, if fifteen of our world’s adults were getting half as much done as these two fine young people, imagine the results.

We congratulate both of you fine young scientists for getting so much done with so little funding. Thank you, Sara and Jonah, for your remarkable work. Because of you two, I’ll still be healthy enough to drive my wife and myself to a shuffleboard competition when I get a little older, and I will still have the fuel to get there.

I cringe when I hear my fellow old cranks complaining about “kids today.” It’s nonsense. There are a lot of great young people doing great things. Instead of looking down our wrinkled noses at today’s youth, we would better serve our own interests by helping youngsters find the opportunities to develop their talents. In a world with so much tragedy and human suffering, young people like Sara and Jonah give us all cause for hope.

 

We Thank You, Italy, for Embracing Witchcraft

An Open Letter to Italy

From Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Dear Italy,

We recently noticed that your court in L’Aquila convicted six scientists and a government official of manslaughter and sentenced them each to six years in jail because they did not accurately predict an earthquake. (See Italian Scientists Resign over L’Aquila Quake Verdicts.) This earthquake was a terrible tragedy, killing over 300 people and leaving hundreds more injured and homeless. We extend our sincere condolences to the victims of this natural disaster.

L’Aquila in highlighted Abruzzo region, image by TUBS on wikimedia commons

We also, however, extend our condolences to the people of Italy, who find themselves governed by such imbeciles. The one thing geologists and geophysicists throughout the world all agree on is that science is not yet able to accurately predict earthquakes. We find it amazing that judges and prosecutors in Italy presume to hold Italian scientists to a standard beyond that which is currently possible anywhere on the planet. Apparently in L’Aquila, they expect their scientists to employ witchcraft to predict earthquakes since science cannot do it. Note to L’Aquila prosecutors: Dumbledore is dead. You’re stuck with the scientists. But not for long . . .

Now that Italy has indicated a clear preference for witchcraft over scientific method, we would like to extend an invitation to your most capable scientists and engineers to come live in the US. Our gullible public and corrupt officials are currently less gullible and less corrupt than the Italian judiciary. Your scientists can, to our benefit, practice their skills without fear of being arrested or held to a standard of omnipotent knowledge that one would expect of God.

We realize that, as you watch our election process, you must have your own doubts about the sanity of our people and the integrity of our main political parties. You should carefully note that we have never had someone as vile and corrupt as Berlusconi in our top office. However, we do recognize that’s probably only because Berlusconi’s been at it longer than the youngsters we have in charge over here.

Since Italy apparently no longer has any use for the scientific method, we will happily welcome your best scientists and engineers here. We’d like to thank those few employed Italians with enough money to pay taxes for supporting Italy’s university system all these years. We promise to appreciate the contributions of your intelligentsia.

Before these excellent scientists leave Italy and bring their skills to the New World, we recommend that the seismologists protect themselves from criminal prosecution by issuing a blanket warning of ultimate earthquake disaster for the entire of Italy. Astronomers, no doubt equally as appalled as we are by this conviction, can join in with the proclamation that the sky is falling. Italy can call it the ‘Proclamazione di Chicken Little’.

As you fine Italian citizens consider where to relocate during the forthcoming mass evacuation of Italy, we would suggest to you our own Italian republic, which we call New Jersey. The Italian population of New Jersey has been declining precipitously in recent years. We are certain that state’s social problems could be greatly alleviated with a sufficient influx of some genuine Italians. Please take care of that embarrassing Snooki problem when you get there.

If you don’t mind taking on the work, a million or so fresh Italians relocated to Brooklyn, New York would undoubtedly improve the social conditions there, as well. Across the East River in the Bronx, the Yankees are waiting for the next Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, or Phil Rizzutto, and we’re hoping you’ll be bringing him with you. Note: Italian lawyers, politicians, and other dangerous criminals not welcome.

We should take this opportunity to thank you, people of Italy, for improving our own scientific communities with your finest minds that you went to great expense to train. Let’s face it. They have no place staying in a country that convicts them for not practicing witchcraft.

This certainly is not intended as an insult to the Italian people. We, too, have our own corrupt officials and ignorant slugs in the US who love to confuse witchcraft with science. As a general rule, though, they are too busy blaming homosexuals and abortion recipients for earthquakes and other natural disasters and therefore don’t have time to harass scientists.

Unless, of course, those scientists are also homosexual or abortion recipients. In fact, now that we think about it, we recommend that homosexual scientists avoid small towns in Kansas altogether and relocate instead to San Francisco, Boulder, or Austin. They will find themselves quite at home with teaching positions at Cambridge in the UK, as well.

Mind you, we only want your brightest and most industrious scientists and engineers seeking employment in the US and the UK. Your less magnificent scientists should obtain teaching positions at Le Sorbonne in Paris, where they can’t possibly do much harm since the students are unlikely to end their strikes long enough to attend any classes anyway. Enjoy the wine.

People of Italy, we look forward to your arrival. Some of us are Irish so we’ll leave the light on for you.

Sincerely,

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes