Rumble in the deep? Fire down below?

Okay, so this is pretty cool. Jonathan Amos reports for the BBC:

Extraordinary video has been obtained in the Pacific Ocean of the deepest undersea eruption ever recorded.

The pictures show lavas bursting into the water at the West Mata submarine volcano, which is sited about 200km (125 miles) south-west of the Samoas.
The US Jason robotic submersible had to descend over 1,100m to acquire the high definition video.

The vehicle found microbes and a specialized volcano-dwelling shrimp thriving in hot, acidic waters.

“It’s an extraordinary environment,” said Joseph Resing, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Washington and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean in Seattle, US.

“You have molten lavas at 1,400C producing acidic fluids – the sulphur dioxide makes these fluids as acidic as pH1.4 – and yet microbes are thriving,” he told BBC News.

“The magmatic gases sustain and provide energy for microbial life, and then the microbes provide energy for the shrimp.

“We see them very close to the volcano – within metres.”

Dr Resing has been describing the volcano’s behaviour here at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fall Meeting, the world’s largest annual gathering of Earth scientists.

Not only is it the deepest eruption, but it is also among the hottest; the volcano, say researchers, expels boninite lava, which is apparently really hot.

God Bless the Children of the Beast, and other notes

I’m not much for believing conspiracy theories, but there is some fun to be had in reading through them. We often forget, among the echoing, craven paranoia of a thousand parrots swollen with delusions of grandeur that there is, in fact, a creative endeavor taking place. You know, kind of like religion.

And speaking of religion, sort of ….

Cheques will be phased out by October 2018, but only if adequate alternatives are developed, the body that oversees payments strategy has said.

The board of the UK Payments Council has set the date in a bid to encourage the advance of other forms of payment.

The first cheque was written 350 years ago and the decision will be greeted with disappointment by some small businesses and consumers.

The Council said there should be “no scenario” for using cheques by 2018.
The target date for the closure of the system that processes cheques has been set for 31 October 2018, after the board described the payment method as in “terminal decline”.

However, there will be annual checks on the progress of other payments systems and a final review of the decision will be held in 2016.

Even I was surprised by this BBC article, although perhaps if I was British—or, at least, paying attention—I would have seen this coming. The cashless society is a common aspect of “Beast Theory” among Christian paranoiacs, some of whom see the idea of a plastic-commerce society as an apocalyptic sign; eventually, the theory goes, we will pay credits instead of cash through a microchip or barcode at the wrist, which would translate to the Biblical “mark of the Beast”.

While I don’t think this particular transition in the UK heralds the coming of Satan, or anything like that, is it really a good idea? I mean, sure, many people are set up to receive their wages, or pay their taxes, electronically, but the more fundamentally we come to rely on the networks, the more I find myself wondering if anyone is stopping to consider what happens if the power goes out. It is not impossible that some cataclysm could so severely damage the networks that they are, for an extended period, useless; and it seems we ought to have something like, say, paper checks, which apparently worked well enough for centuries before our financial endeavors were aided by computers.

Still, though, I expect that sometime in the next couple of years we will start hearing about this plan to phase out checks in the UK as further evidence of the coming of the Beast, or some such. And both humanity’s diversity and its creative capacity suggest to me we’ll hear some pretty entertaining variations on some basic conspiracy theories, be it the Beast, the Jews taking over the world, or whatever the hell else the paranoiacs come up with.

To the other, I haven’t heard a good conspiracy theory in years.