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Feb 14 2013

New at Rosetta Stones: Things Get Heated

In this issue, scientists play with plastic. Betcha didn’t know that subjecting plastics to high heat can tell you a lot about what a volcano was up to during its paroxysmal eruption. Even if you already did: awesome pictures! I think the USGS geologists liked demolished cars as much as most of you do.

Destroyed signal light on heavily damaged vehicle by May 18 eruption, near Meta Lake 13 km northeast of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. June 18, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Destroyed signal light on heavily damaged vehicle by May 18 eruption, near Meta Lake 13 km northeast of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. June 18, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

If you’re fond of forests, take the next week to stock up on liquid courage and steel your backbone, sort of thing. You might notice, in this lovely side view of a battered truck, that there is no forest.

Another view of truck caught in and damaged by Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18, 1980. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Another view of truck caught in and damaged by Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18, 1980. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

There’s a good reason for that…

4 comments

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  1. 1
    heliconia

    In the words of a certain viral video, SO INTENSE! Although, in many ways, I’m even more astonished at how well the paint held up under those high temperatures.

  2. 2
    Lithified Detritus

    Gotta love the way scientists think. They don’t just say “Wow, it got really hot!” They ask “How hot, and for how long? How can we find out?” And then set about figuring it out. Using melted taillights as proxies for thermometers is brilliant.

  3. 3
    rq

    Excellent post. Intensely hot.
    And some awesome science at work!
    *thumbs up*

  4. 4
    Tethys

    I have really enjoyed this series Dana. Thanks!

    The pictures are great. I like being able to see the detail of the hot pumice embedded into the plastic of the taillight.
    Just for fun, I went looking for a before picture of the pick-up truck grill. I found an appropriate one with a nice volcano in the background here.

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