Many of Your Wishes Are Already My Commands


Many of you aren’t shy about letting me know what you want – and I sincerely hope you never will be, because it’s easier than guessing. I’m always happy to get meaningful nudges from you. I’m even happier when I can oblige.

Sometimes, I can deliver what you request nearly instantly. Sometimes, it requires research and takes longer. There are times when what you want and what I can deliver don’t mesh – but that’s not to say circumstances won’t change. There are things I can do now that I couldn’t do then, so one never knows. The point is, you should never fail to make your desires known. Just, y’know, prepare for a possibly long wait. And I’ll try to let you know if something is completely impossible for me. Like, for instance, answering email on time. (Look, I answer nearly instantaneously on a geologic timescale, right? So if we could all just manage to live for a few billion years…)

So a few meaningful nudges have been given lately, and I do want to assure you I’m headed in many of the directions indicated.

Image is a Siamese cat staring raptly at a bit of raw salmon being offered with chopsticks. Caption says "Yes, master... your wish is my command"

1. Yes, there will be a Mount St. Helens book.

In fact, you’ve been reading it. For the actual book edition, o’course, I’ll add in extra stuff, clarify bits, and polish things up nicely, so don’t ever be shy about leaving comments regarding the things that pass through your mind as you read the series: questions, wishes, anything. I’ll be collecting your comments and using them as a guide for what to add to the book.

And the damn thing will bloody well be eminently affordable, too. At least, I can promise the e-book version will be. All the photos may make the dead-tree version more of a pricey option, but we’ll see when we get there.

2. Yes, there will be another Catastrophe series after Mount St. Helens is done.

Several, actually. I love this format as much as you lot seem to, and it allows for wonderful deep-dives in to some truly amazing geology. Tambora and Pelee were mentioned as possibilities, and I may very well give them the treatment someday, but there are already several excellent and affordable books on Mount Pelee, and a brand-new one coming out on Tambora that looks quite excellent (I’ll review it for everyone).

So I’ve made an executive decision and decided to ask you if you’d be happy with Thera instead. Basically a Minoan Pompeii. It’s sweet, people, and I know someone who’s worked on the remains of that volcano (which is now the lovely Greek island of Santorini), so I think we could get a good thing going.

I also plan to do one up on Barringer Meteor Crater. Yes, I know, no humans around in northern Arizona 50,000 years ago to be severely inconvenienced, but enormous rock from space going smack and leaving a mile-wide crater that still looks fresh and awesome today? Yeah, I gotta do it. I hope you’ll love it. And I know I can mount an expedition (my parents will scream for joy, they live not far from there) in order to obtain very spiffy photos.

What do you think? Sound good?

3. Yes, I am going to give the movie Pompeii a thorough geologic inspection, and likely will find it wanting.

I’ve been planning that since I first saw the trailer several weeks ago. I nearly screamed with delight. There’s nothing like a really awful volcano movie for getting the old snark muscles warmed, is there? I’ve already got a piece on Pompeii under me belt, so I feel this is a task I can undertake with confidence. And I make just enough filthy lucre from this network’s advertising revenue that I can cover the expense without having to take you up on your kind offers of paying for my ticket. It’s even going to be tax-deductible! Dang, I love this job…

4. Speaking of filthy lucre, you don’t have to worry.

Many of you expressed disappointment that you couldn’t instantly help with funding the Fundies series. It’s okay! Your needs and expenses come first, always. We’re well-funded at the moment, so relax. Besides, this is going to be a long-term project, so there will come a time when you can pitch in with a few bucks for needed materials if you wish. There are non-financial ways you can help, too: assisting with research, for instance, or tipping me off to new creationist arguments, or helping me with technical questions in your areas of expertise. Some of you have access to professional journals that I don’t, and can thus obtain papers that will be needed. This is very much going to be a group effort, because it’s a huge, sprawling topic, and I can’t do it alone. Each and every one of you will have an opportunity along the way to do important things, up to and including keeping a beady eye out for any local creationist efforts to get myths taught in science class. (Also, shoulders. You’ve got shoulders, right? There will be times I need to cry on them. Oh, my fuck, some of this stuff is agonizingly stoopid.)

This community is amazing, and I meant it when I said I couldn’t do any of this without you. All of these things above: these are you. You make them possible. You make them worth doing.

So I’m off to go do them. Laters!

Comments

  1. lpetrich says

    You might like Jason Rosenhouse’s recent book “Among the Creationists”. He’s gone to some creationist conferences, and he’s tried to understand where they come from conceptually. He’s online at Evolutionblog at Scienceblogs.

    As to a book about Thera, I’d certainly like that. I don’t know how much you’d want to get into side issues about it, but some obvious ones are the Minoans in general, Atlantis, and the Ten Plagues of Egypt.

    My favorite theory about Atlantis was that Plato had cobbled the account together from various places and stories that he knew about. He wanted to tell the story about a virtuous land-based nation, early Athens, vs. a wicked sea-based nation, Atlantis. This was an allegory for Sparta vs. Athens. Though an Athenian, he liked Sparta, and when he was young, the two city-states were fighting a long war with each other, the Peloponnesian War. His teacher Socrates was famously found guilty of un-Athenian activities, but that was likely because he also was pro-Sparta.

    Part of the Atlantis story is likely a distant and garbled memory of the Thera eruption, as told by Egyptian chroniclers. Atlantis itself seems like Crete with its capital being like the ancient city of Syracuse in Sicily. Its westward location is about right if it’s relative to Egypt, even if not to Athens. Plato’s account even got Greece’s literacy gap right. The first Greeks to write were the Mycenaeans, who had conquered the Minoans. However, their writing was only used for bookkeeping, as far as we can tell, and their literacy disappeared when the Mycenaean palace society was destroyed in the strife of around 1200 BCE. Greeks became literate again around 750 BCE, with an alphabet that they have used ever since.

    As to the Ten Plagues of Egypt, here’s my pet theory. It starts with the Hyksos, who had come in from Canaan and overran northern Egypt. The Thera eruption happened during their stay, and refugees from Thera and Crete told their stories about the horrors that they had experienced. Various Hyksos people found those stories very memorable. Sometime afterward, some southern Egyptians led by a certain Ahmose drove them out of northern Egypt and back to Canaan. Along the way, they went through a big marsh that seemed like a sea of reeds, likely near present-day Eilat, and Ahmose’s army quit chasing them. Ahmose’s name sounds something like “Brother of Moses” in Hebrew, and various storytellers filled in the details of who Moses was, and turned these events into something much more dramatic. “Moses parted the Reed Sea, letting the Israelites cross, but when the Egyptian army followed, he let the water return, drowning the Egyptian soldiers” is much more dramatic than “When we got to a sea of reeds, we noticed that the Egyptians had stopped chasing us”. Likewise, the Thera-disaster events were moved to Egypt itself.

  2. Johnny Vector says

    Ahem. If you were to set up a guided tour expedition of Barringer while you’re out there, I would very likely join in. I haven’t been back to Flag since *mumble mumble* 1981, and it’s high time I got out there again. Half my family’s friends were geologists, of either the terrestrial or planetary variety, but most of the geology I learned has been lost to time, and the ravages thereof. So it’ll be like hearing a joke whose punchline I’ve forgotten. New to me!

    As for writings, I do prefer something what hasn’t been much written about, so go for it!

  3. lpetrich says

    On the Barringer Meteor Crater, I think that it’s worth mentioning that there was a long controversy over what it was, a controversy that was only settled with the discovery of shocked rocks nearby in 1960.

  4. rq says

    #1 – Good. :) I was starting to think that all of my (our) subtle hints weren’t getting through to you. ;)
    #2 – Barringer or Thera, I’ll read it with gusto and a great deal of pleasure.
    #3 – Good. :) I’ll be expecting a suitably flaming and critical review.
    #4 – Also good. :) Double-plus so.

    re: Thera and the ten plagues of Egypt
    I have to remember where, but I saw a documentary on I believe the Thera explosion, where it went through a number of the Egyptian plague ‘symptoms’ and compared them to similar observed phenomena near various kinds of volcano in relatively recent times (even the biblical and volcanic times had a reasonable sort of agreement, within allowable human error) – the blood-coloured water, rains of animals, poisoned water, things like that. It was years ago, though, so I have to wrack my brains a bit about what it may have been called, but that might be an interesting sort of connection to pull into the history of Thera.
    Plus, Santorini is a gorgeous island, so any current photography you’ll post of that place will be a treat. Bonus points if your friend/acquaintance manages you a field trip out in that direction. ;)
    AND there’s a semi-documentary film called (I believe) Atlantis something-something about the Thera explosion. Which may help in your research – I believe it may have been discussed previously on a related topic on this blog quite some time ago. But it was reasonably believable, except for a few of the heroic escapes, plus had an interesting portrayal of Minoan culture (I won’t vouch for accuracy).
    Anyway.

    Short version in response to all points: Oh, good!!!

  5. Trebuchet says

    If I may suggest an addition to the queue, how about a piece about some relatively rapid geology here in Washington: The Grand Coulee and Channeled Scablands! Imagine the flow from Glacial Lake Missoula thundering over Dry Falls. And all those lava flows in the coulee walls — layer upon layer of them. Imagine something like that happening now!

    Good to know about the funding thing. My current cash flow issues will put me in a better position to contribute in a month or two.

  6. Lithified Detritus says

    Great news on all counts!

    I don’t recall seeing the piece on Pompeii before – good stuff as usual.

    I will second Trebuchet’s suggestion – I don’t know as much as I’d like about the Channeled Scablands, etc.

    Good news about the $$, too. I’d been feeling a bit guilty – I’d like to help, but money has been kind of tight.

  7. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    Barringer and Thera both sound good–Barringer in particular, because I’ve read so little about it. Thera turns up now and again in fiction and archeology.

  8. says

    So much to look forward to! I am especially keen to hear about Thera and Barringer. And Pompeii. And the Fundies. So basically everything.

    I can offer assistance on the tracking down scientific papers front if you need it.

  9. chezjake says

    Yes, yes for Thera/Santorini!

    Another possible future project – although not a major catastrophe, the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland were truly remarkable for the involvement of both amateurs and professionals in the blogosphere – centered around the extensive comment threads at Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions blog.

  10. lyle says

    Of course if you want to cover big floods there is also the Lake Bonneville flood 14,700 or so years ago. It was twice as big as the scablands flood, but took months to drain not days. This is because the sill at Red Rock Pass Id, was eroded down by the flood, not an ice dam as in the case of the scablands flood. There are ripple marks in Hells Canyon left from it. It also scoured most of the lava plains in Southern Idaho, and deepend the Snake river bed. This web site says the flow from Lake Missoula was 30x than from Lake Bonneville, but the flow from Bonneville lasted a good bit longer: http://imnh.isu.edu/digitalatlas/hydr/lkbflood/lbf.htm. Note that around Lewiston, ID the Missoula flood deposits lie both above and below the Lake Bonneville ones.

    • Trebuchet says

      Off to look up Lake Bonneville. And the channeled scablands, Lake Missoula, etc, etc, etc.

  11. psanity says

    Well, there’s also a fascinating Once and Future catastrophe. Although preparations for the Sooper Sekret Underground Lair* are, obviously, well underway, it would be nice to have a full geological assessment of the Yellowstone Caldera — or at least a good story. Field trips are possible.

    * a mental health liferaft in a sea of madness — but that doesn’t mean we weren’t dead serious. The bears are doing great, by the way.

  12. petemoulton says

    Yes, Mt St Helens, but after that you’re on your own. Do what you want to do, because whatever it turns out to be will be terrific.

  13. katybe says

    Practically everything I know about violent geology I’ve learnt through reading you in the last couple of years, so I don’t know how much research went into this, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to recommend a fun author, who used elements of the Thera eruption (and fundamental Christianity, now I think of it) in one of his novels. I hope you might enjoy Not The End of The World, by Christopher Brookmyre, but I’d certainly enjoy reading what you think of his ideas! Luckily, it’s also the book of his with the least amount of Glaswegian dialect, which makes it a little more accessible to a first time reader too.

  14. sundiver says

    This series on Mt St Helens is really fascinating, a lot of stuff in it that got under my radar. As for your future projects,they all sound interesting to me. The Barringer Crater series because I too am a former resident if Northern Arizona ( and hope to return soon ) and visited Barringer 4 or 5 times. And ever since I read Simon Winchester’s The Day the World Exploded about The Krakatoa explosion I’ve wondered if someone would something on the Tambora event. And speaking of Indonesian volcanoes, ever think about doing a series on Mt Toba? Anyway, it sounds like you’ve got enough on your plate to keep you busy and us reading for a while.

  15. alanuk says

    tipping me off to new creationist arguments

    new creationist arguments [see old creationist arguments]

    some of this stuff is agonizingly stoopid

    Yes it is.

    As a lot of the nonsense involves geology, it would be good to see it demolished by a real geologist.

    I will be glad to help where I can.

  16. says

    I know I’m commenting really late here, but I needed to say just how desperately I want to read a book about Thera written by someone who I already know isn’t trying to convince me Atlantis was real.

    And yes, I will buy the Mount Saint Helens book. I’m already planning a hiking trip there.