Month: July 2021

Appreciating Subtlety, But Longing for Fireworks

By Dr. Robert Thorson Teaching respect for nature’s power is the most important challenge facing science educators today. This is fairly easy to achieve when volcanic eruptions offer dramatic images that outmatch even a Hollywood spectacle. It’s much harder to achieve when nature works stealthily, as in global warming. Understanding the more subtle side of […]

Tsunami Warning System Could Have Saved Lives

By Dr. Robert Thorson The death toll from the Sumatran tsunami will probably exceed 50,000. Regrettably, most of those drowned at sea died needlessly, either because they were not adequately warned or because they couldn’t interpret the sea’s strange behavior. Ignorance of earthly matters always takes its toll. A sophisticated tsunami warning system operates 24-7 […]

When Fans Really Rock

By Dr. Robert Thorson Leap-frogging I understand. Leap-yearing I do not, unless it involves seismic tremors created by humans. I get the concept of adding an extra day to the calendar every four years. Certainly, it’s more convenient to plan three integer-based calendar years with 365 days and a fourth one with 366, than to […]

Don’t Mess with Nature

By Dr. Robert Thorson How can I use it? Will it harm me? These two basic questions lie beneath all land-use decisions. Humans live wherever the benefits of using the land for habitat, resources or disposal outweigh the risk of being harmed by the land. This is smart. But there are three problems associated with […]

Tapping Into Earth Power

By Dr. Robert Thorson There’s a change blowing in the wind of U.S. energy policy. It’s blowing up from below. Think steam. On Jan. 22, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a blockbuster report titled “The Future of Geothermal Energy,” which I hope will change the way Americans think about energy independence. What they argue […]

Mountain in Motion

By Dr. Robert Thorson Ignorance is bliss … until it kills you. Lahar. What is it? What does it mean? It meant death to the Philippine village of Guinsaugon, where 206 children were buried alive in their school last month. It meant death to residents of the Andean nation of Columbia, where 23,000 people were […]

Yellowstone – Just the Tip of the Volcano

By Dr. Robert Thorson ‘Where are we going to go when the volcano blows?” That lyric by singer Jim Croce was playing in the background when I was being introduced on WTIC radio during last week’s morning commute. I was being interviewed about the recent swarm of about 900 small earthquakes beneath Yellowstone National Park […]

Europe at the Mercy of Broken Bubbles

By Dr. Robert Thorson Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull eruption is an Earth Day salute reminding humans of their proper place in nature. “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.” I used this quote from Will Durant only three months ago to interpret the Haiti earthquake. It applies equally well to what’s taking place in […]

A Lesson From Yellowstone’s Deadly Pools

By Dr. Robert Thorson Though tragic, the death of Colin Nathaniel Scott, 23, provides a teaching moment about accepting responsibility and organic chemistry. He’s the man from Portland, Ore., who – with his sister watching – disappeared into the highly acidic, boiling volcanic water of Yellowstone National Park on June 8. But first, I offer […]

Hawaiian Eruption – A Power Beyond Ours

By Dr. Robert Thorson Kilauea is erupting on the state of Hawaii’s Big Island, reminding us that we all owe our existence to a power greater than ourselves. One of the residents who evacuated from the sputtering volcanic rift zone was, Tesha “Mirah” Montoya, who said: ”My heart and soul’s there. … I’m nothing without […]