On punishment of young scientists

Giordano Bruno made the ultimate sacrifice for science at Campo dei Fiori.

Giordano Bruno made the ultimate sacrifice for science at Campo dei Fiori.

On the 17th of February 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy. His mouth had been tied shut, denying him the possibility to speak out. His crime was that, as a scientist, mathematician and philosopher, he had dared to say that the stars in the heavens were actually suns with planets, and that those planets also carried intelligent life. He also claimed that the intelligent life on those planets were God’s creatures as well as humans.

Galileo Galilei was condemned as guilty of heresy on the 22nd of June 1633 for daring to claim that he had proof that the earth indeed circled the sun. His sentence was house arrest for the rest of his life.

One would think that persecution of science and scientists were a thing of the past, at least in our so called enlightened Western World. Sadly that is not true.

Kiera Wilmot. To us this is the face of bright young teen that we really need more of in the world.

Kiera Wilmot. To us this is the face of bright young teen that we really need more of in the world.

The 16 year old scientist Kiera Wilmot in Bartow Florida was expelled and arrested after performing the classical “erupting volcano” experiment. On the 29th of April 2013 she placed a small piece of aluminum foil in a small bottle filled with toilet bowl cleaner. This caused a small exothermic reaction and the lid popped off with a puff of smoke. No big harm done and no-one was ever in any danger. Certainly there was no intention to expose anyone to danger.

The Principal of the school, Ron Pritchard, was alerted by the school police and  decided that action needed to be taken. He had the young scientist handcuffed and arrested, expelled and to top it all off he had her charged on two separate felony crimes, possession and discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.

Now, there is one thing one need to remember here, she was doing what all curious young scientists do: experiment. We have all done it!  So, she is arrested, expelled and charged for doing what she was supposed to do all along. That is persecution of science as we see it.

It also tells something about how much higher Kiera’s understanding of science and chemical practices is compared to the Principal’s. Pritchard should read Homer Hickam’s award-winning book ‘Rocket Boys‘. Perhaps the book can teach him what nurturing true scientists is all about.

In the western societies we tend to uphold scientists as ideals of what our children should aspire to become, but there seems to be a big difference between what we say and what we do. Science in its nature is rather anarchistic and scientists tend to follow their trail of investigation wherever it leads them. In Kiera’s case it led to a small and harmless experiment. Scientists make a nuisance of ourselves. It is the price the world has to be prepared to pay for our invention and theories. Teaching the young budding scientists safety practices is the school’s responsibility: teach, not punish.

The world is filled with professors sitting in high chairs, and to be honest most of us have blown things up on a much grander scale than Kiera did on our path to being stuffed up pompous professors. It is in the nature of science to break things apart, blow things up, and generally explore things that are not commonplace. Like adding toilet cleaner to aluminium foil.

Scientists are a rare breed, still regarded with an element of distrust by the majority non-scientists. We appear to speak english but we have a very strange vocabulary, as impenetrable as secret code to outsiders. Yet society is totally dependent upon science. Fear and distrust of the unusual, combined with dependence, make for reactionary behaviours by politicians and their public employees. Kiera’s unjust punishment leaves the impression that science is still regarded as magic in Florida.

If America allows this politically instigated madness to persist it will find its future scientific efforts severely compromised. USA needs to nurture its young scientists as never before in its history. Research in USA has been desperately short of home grown talent for decades. Those of us with internation research experience are familar with visiting USA labs that have a dozen or more scientists recruited from across the planet, with just one USA-national, usually the fund-raiser. That will change. The USA, like the UK, is now a long, long way down the peck order in teaching outcomes in science and math education. Asia and Europe leave us behind. As the Asian and BRIC economies race ahead with growing their own science, they will offer their own scientists attractive opportunities. Recruitment by USA from overseas will suffer. So America needs it Kieras, all of them.

So here’s a message to Kiera: science is international and the world wants you, and young people like you. As many as we can get. Even if your home country does it very best to put obstacles in your path, don’t whatever you do give up on your ambition to become a scientist-engineer. Its a passport to freedom. And to be honest, a lifetime of satisfying your curiosity.

Worryingly, the quality of the students attending Universities in the west has sunk both in terms of knowledge and in terms of imagination. The learning processes that encourage imagination and innovation are imossible to teach. Rather, they need to develop through curiosity and experiment, in our youth. Kill that inherent desire to ‘find out what happens’ and you kill a scientist. Kiera Wilmot is exactly the type of student we dearly wish to have at our Universities, instead we try to squash her natural curiosity, imagination and brilliance. What we find most galling is that she was banned from learning and knowledge by her school. The denial of knowledge is a horrible thing.

No, we have not learned anything from that faithful day when the tongue-tied Giordano Bruno burned at the stake. Shame on us, shame for the world.

CARL REHNBERG, PhD, Assistant Professor

PETER H COBBOLD, PhD, Emeritus Professor


150 thoughts on “On punishment of young scientists

  1. Good point made.
    Message to Kiera : don’t let fools rob you of your love for science. Science is great, it makes the difference.

    A chemical engineer from France.

  2. If Kiera ever reads this, or if anyone of those who reads this piece know Kiera:
    She is more than welcome to contact us, both me and Peter are more than willing to help out in any way we can, for instance with recommendations to our respective Alma Maters.

  3. RED/WARNING 2014-06-02 17:30:38 – VAN/VONA
    RESENDING: The low-level eruption of Pavlof has escalated. Seismic tremor increased starting about 2300 UTC today and pilots have recently reported ash clouds to 22,000 ft. ASL. Recent satellite images show a plume extending over 80 km east of the volcano.

  4. I think this is a wonderful response to the idiocy Kiera has been subjected to. And by that statement, I do mean full on intentional idiocy, done in the name of dotting an I or crossing a T on the political correctness scale for the school. Personally, I am aghast at the amount of money that is squandered on the multiple layers of beuocratic crap that layered between students and knowledge. The ones truly deserving of being pilloried are the administrative staff of that school, and any judge or law enforcement official who took this case seriously.

    EWC USN ret.

  5. Without taking anything away from your point, which I fully endorse, in fairness it should be pointed out that Kiera was readmitted to the school and all charges dropped soon after it happened a year ago … but only after a justified public outcry. Of course, it should never have happened at all.

    The legacy is that she now has a felony arrest record, which apparently stays on her record for five years, and which might prejudice her future.

    • The point is not only Kiera, the point is also the mode of thinking behind setting up punishing rules for budding young minds. And also as you point out, she still has a record after this incident.
      Readmitting Kiera was the least the school could do. It should really do a lot more than that.

    • It would be better if the felony arrest were to be cleaned from her record now, as all charges were dropped.

    • Happy to see that she could go back, but I can only wonder at what would have happened should there was no internet and no advertising of her case. In a way this is frightening if only for the sheer level of stupidity. At worse it was only a small accident with no consequences (or did she spill the contents of the bottle on the ground because that could land her in serious trouble with the EPA… 😀 )

      • During my stint as a volunteer firefighter, one of our group took it upon himself to clean the rest room with muriatic acid and bleach. We had to evacuate the building for a time until the noxious (and harmful) cloud cleared.

        • Nice of him to try first world war chem warfare on you! The good point is that you good rid of a lot of pests probably. Chlorine gas is really nasty. I sniffed some during my studies (the fans of the old “sorbonnes” or fume hoods were not powerful enough). Bad memory.

        • Half our campus and streets around were evacuated for hours after a student tipped a bottle of mercaptan down a lab.drain. It is reaaaally smelly – and added in traces to natual gas to make leaks obvious. For a while we thought central Liverppol was to be flattened faster than the developers could do it.

          • With that amount of smell… I imagine that it was a pretty valid fear.

            Recently, the central booking office of the sheriff’s department was blown up due to a natural gas leak. Since the BATFE guys have announced that they were looking into criminal negligence charges, every one of the facilities has become hyper sensitive to apparent gas leaks, and more than one facility has been evacuated due to the smell.

            • Side note: One important fact that was imparted to us during driver’s training. Never drive the engine directly to the scene of the gas leak. The ambient natural gas could cause the engine to run away and give you no way to throttle it when it gets ingested by the motor. (diesel)

          • One of my less bright moments was when as a kid our “gang” figured out how to make gunpowder. We finnished of our experimentation after a few months with building our own volcano involving homegrown napalm and gunpowder.
            The fire department was not all that amused, even though they were impressed with our endeavour.
            Not getting punished made me delve deeper into things, as did all of us. From the little “terrorist-squad” of twelve year olds came an assortment of researchers and engineers. To the best of my knowledge none of us dodged the bullet of scientific training later in life.

            • My fully approved A level physics project, back in the early seventies, involved solid fuel rockets using a mix that wasn’t far off gunpowder. There were inevitable mishaps, the most spectacular of which left a scorched crater in the school hockey pitch and a somewhat traumatised young trainee teacher. I wonder what the idiots in Florida would have made of that.
              Fished this comment out of the dungeon. chryphia

            • I think so, but being well to the north we laughed it off. Southern england being effectively a no go area for northerners wishing to mainntain a quality of life.

              Reminds me when there was a leak at an oil refinery upwind of Liverpool. The Fire Brigade announced worried to Liverpudlians that ” “they didnt know what is was but it was not dangerous”.
              Better the devil you dont know ???

          • A large industrial site north of London was evacuated because of a garlic sausage sandwich in one of the offices. They were polishing zinc selenide elsewhere in the building so a little over-sensitive to garlicky aromas :-). My elder son was a genetics student in Liverpool up until last summer. I hope he wasn’t guilty of the mercaptan stunt!

        • Yeah, I recognized the smell from that pool supply house that went up over near where I used to live. That one was a total loss because we had to wait around for the city to pick up all of their damned spaghetti like supply lines before they left the hydrant for us to tag. Since the business was on the border of the city, it wasn’t until a few hours into it that they discovered that it was on the wrong side of the street to be their responsibility. To this day, the City FD uses twin 2.5 ” supply lines and the county uses a single 5″ line. County gets 4 x the water from the hydrant than the city crews can get without seriously boosting the pressure in a hydrassist function. (almost like vacuuming the water out of the water system and known to occasionally collapse water heaters.)

        • Had a small domestic accident today resulting in a butter maar:
          Image and video hosting by TinyPic
          Remember: do not try to thaw frozen butter in the microwave 🙂

            • I was 13 at the time when I first ignited a 4′ dia. hydrogen-filled balloon with a time-delay fuse (actually a whole bunch of fire cracker fuses strung together) on 4th of July..and it was quite the deal seeing such a huge suspended fireball like that, plus the noise was more like a concussion. The cops came around, but really had no idea what they were looking for. A rousing success, indeed! No one hurt. No harm done.
              I guess the urge to experiment never left me. Led me to a 40+ year career of essentially playing with my “toys”: only in real life it was blasting plasma’s into silicon.
              Looking back, if I had been persecuted as young Keira was, I’m not sure I would have been as bold as I turned out. So, try to keep it safe out there, but don’t let your imagination and curiosities get stifled either. It’s not necessarily what you’re curious about, just that you’re curious and willing to expend some effort to find out. That is the true life-lesson to be learned and encouraged.
              I won’t even get into the “Florida Mentality” thing. Too risky…even for me.

            • Now I am curious Craig, why did you blast plasma into silicone?
              And… now I’ve got a curious urge to try it 🙂

              Oh, I got the answer as I pressed post button. Fermi-ring?

    • The fun part is that the new fault line from the rift jump shows up quite nicely, and the old fault hardly appears at all. The “dead zone” is in the new line.

      • Yes, the South Icelandic Fracture Zone is moving towards being the new main faultline, but there is the possibility that the MAR soon will mainly move up through the Vestmannaeyar in the future.

    • It looks like they know ALL about this. And maybe that’s all they know? Very entertaining indeed 🙂

  6. Oh well written Carl and Peter, and I am very happy to see your support for Kiera.
    It is shameful what happened, and the spirit behind what Kiera did should be encouraged, not be met with all this paranoia of explosives and terrorism. The US, and actually most of the west, is becoming too paranoic with simply by mention of the words “explosion”, “chemical reaction”, “smoke”, etc. I want to live in a society where experimentation is encouraged and well away from any mental paranoias.

    On another note, Iceland is truly shining light along all its rift today and yesterday 🙂 Even Oraefajokull had a swarm today. Almost all other active volcanoes in Iceland had a shake today!

    • On my visits to Iceland’s tourist sites I have been mightily impressed with the lack of safety barriers and ‘danger keep out’ signage. Even the prime tourist sites have minimal warnings. Wonderful. If UK had a Gullfoss, the public would have to look on from afar. The path to the waters’ edge would be deemed far too dangerous.

  7. So what was it my buds in school threw into the toilet pan that blew the wall out? Magnesium? Just recently I bought the guy’s book on the local silver mines off eBay and I happen to know he has the full set of local geological maps for the local area, though Roman mines still suddenly appear in the middle of children’s playgrounds or windy hill tops… Potholing as teenagers with the university caving club left its mark on all of us, for all that swimming in underground rivers in a boiler suit and hockey boots wasn’t the smartest of moves. We survived those crazy days, thankfully.

    • when I was in high school there was a segment in chem lab on light metals sodium was passed around in it’s bottle of oil the oil was to keep water away well myself and a couple of the other villains snitched 3 or 4 grams taking care to keep it in oil then dropped in the lifting holes in a manhole made a impressive explosion tossed the cower nicely lucky we were not caught

        • Dunno about that, but hitting a burning magnesium block of a VW microbus with a solid stream from your firehose is quite…. spectacular.

          And I thought I was trying to cool the fuel tank. Imagine my surprise when nodules of fire shot back out at me. The pump operator, a coworker of mine from the course I was teaching, cranked the throttle (which drove the pump) until the hose was starting to lift me and another firefighter off of the ground. I had a monster amount of water hitting that thing, trying to cool it low enough to stop it from burning. At one time, we were both pretty horizontal on that line trying to keep it from getting away from us.

          (yeah, we had both gone through wild hose training, luckily we didn’t need to do that. Essentially, two of you crawl down the non flopping part of the hose to near the end, then when you have it mostly subdued, the guy in back leaps over the lead guy and wrangles with the nozzle. The easier way is the pump operator cuts back on the flow and you walk over and pick it up.)

          Here is a guy trying to do it solo

  8. I think another good point needs to be made about this case. In society I think that many are putting the cons before the pros. Also, more so than in the past people just aren’t treating one another nicely and are making many wrong assumptions. Quite sad really.

    Yes Iceland has just woken up and there have been a few deep ones at Katla, with low magnitude though but she has her earthquake season around this time of year anyway. There is an interesting swarm at Torfajokull. Grimsvotn has finally joined the party.

  9. Glad to know (from the comments) that Kiara was readmitted to the school, this was really a big injustice. I can actually imagine that the experiment must have been a lot of fun 😛 The principal of the school must be a really boring guy. Actually, at least in my secondary school times, the practical part of chemistry was the only part of chemistry that everybody liked, exactly because of a chance that there will be something exploding or at least making fumes in the school lab 😀 Sodium on the water stuff was off course really popular 🙂
    My colleague in pharm technology lab has a nice non-explosive story of filling the lab with soap bubbles. A flask with something alkaline happened to fall into hot oil bath… and the reaction began. The rest of the day was spent cleaning the lab, but seeing the lab with soap bubbles virtually everywhere was worth it 😛

    • I saw a youtube video yesterday claiming that a cloud fell to earth. Many inane comments were made about it, though it was clearly a wad of AFFF floating around. (a form of firefighting foam) I know because I’ve seen them wafting by the quarterdeck during a yard period when they were testing the application monitors. Shortly after that a rather pissed off sailor came tromping up the brow to go get cleaned up. He had fallen into the target tank and was covered with it. He was actually quite lucky he didn’t asphyxiate before they fished him out of it.

      I seem to recall that someone dumped some AFFF in the fountain at the base of the pier in Naples at one time.

      At one time, AFFF was eagerly sought after to drizzle in the water behind a boat for those involved in shark fishing. A principle ingredient was some sort of fish protein. In retrospect, I wonder how wise it was to use it if your ship was on fire and in danger of sinking. Nothing like chumming the water before you get in eh?

    • I left a few marks on the chemistry lab ceiling at school. Was collecting a gas (maybe hydrogen) generated by heating concentrated sulphuric acid and a metal (iron filings?); the gas was collected over cold water. OK if you kept the heat on the sulphuric acid until the reaction had finished but we turned away for a few moments. Cold water travelled into the flask with the hot sulphuric acid. Fortunately no-one was hurt.

      • Well, accidents do happen ya know. Just look at Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon 5).

        An unwitting victim of a failure to predict the yeild of the Castle Bravo test. “…expected yield of 4 to 8 megatons” They got 15 megatons and nearly took out the control bunker at the other end of the island.

      • Our chemistry teacher was demonstrating the thermite experiment to us and he set the lab ceiling on fire. The school was evacuated and 4 fire engines turned up. Best thing that happened all year.

        • I guess that the principal from the school that relegated Kiera would have had the teacher publically flogged and then martered for that. Just a guess.

      • Fitting that the wardrobe assistant couldn’t tie a proper knot in the neckerchief. So old Mick fancies himself a 1st class PO. I doubt it… seriously. Oddly enough, the guitarists are all marked as deck seamen. {snicker} I got a chipping hammer and needle gun job for ya out on the forecastle. 😀

    • We may see some really good things from this girl in the future;

      “Kiera will continue her fascination with science in college. She plans on majoring in mechanical and robotic engineering.”

        • Valid point… but with her viewpoint, if ever a robotic system had a chance at becoming sentient, maybe she can design some common sense into it.

          • Looks to me, from afar, that the lunatics are running the asylum. But its Bush country, so why am in not so surprised…

          • Bush country? How so? The last pandering asshole we had was Crist. He screwed the State Economy then fled the scene.

            With Charlie, it was always (and still is) all about Charlie.

            • That was a reply to the Paey report.
              Jeb and hanging chads aroused interest over here.

            • Well, much of that was caused by the ever changing ways they ran the ballots. Now they bleat about disenfranchising voters by cleaning the roles of the dead. When it comes to dead voters, I’m all for taking away their right to vote.

              Within the last year, there was a break-in over at the tax assessor’s office in the next county over. First thing they did was slice the fiber feed to the building, then they entered and went straight for the two safes in the registrars office that contained the absentee ballots, then hauled them out the door and left. Despite the fact they had cut the fiber feed, they were caught on video which is streamed to a local server in the DMV side of things. In the election that followed that, the looser refused to concede due to the ballot theft issue. When the registrar announced that there were only 30 completed ballots in the safes, the looser finally conceded. The blank ballots have yet to be recovered, and the perpetrators have yet to be caught.

  10. I applaud this post. I feel very sad for young people these days. (I have just deleted a long, long diatribe on our education system. I deleted because there is just too much to say and I started feeling very depressed because standards in all aspects of education seem to be dropping here in the UK. ) It’s frightening that there was such a reaction to a young person’s desire to experiment and make discoveries. OK! Maybe the safety issue should certainly be addressed and safe practice taught. But then the world is not a “Safe” place. Things like Volcanoes, Hurricanes and man made disasters happen. Without enquiring young minds I see a bleak and doom filled future as we in the west become as lemmings, following without question, facts pumped into us by unimaginative, government led, National Curriculae taught by blinkered, Politically correct tutors such as that High School head.

      • Atrocious…perhaps one day the purpose of the Mexico–United States barrier will be to keep citizens in. We´ve had that in East Germany.

        • Walling up borders is never a good idea.
          I remember being thrown out of East Germany one foggy morning by armed guards through checkpoint Charlie. After that I have always been of the opinion that borders should be open, or not even exist.

        • That’s all and good if the people transiting are purposefully planning on acclimating themselves to the culture into which they are headed. Too many times there are more nefarious purposes.

          As for the containment of US citizens, that idea has come up more than once in fiction. The cold hard reality is that it is very possible, which is why it keeps coming up. Dystopian tales are rarely that far from the ground truth of some society, just carried out to a logical result of various trends and developments.

  11. Call me skeptical if you want, but I don’t know if it was an innocent experiment. Even if it was, reasonable actions should have been taken. (Of course, this was a clear overreaction.) When I was in high school, a couple of students did the exact same “science experiment” at our school. One said it was a science experiment, but the other spilled the beans and said it was a “bottle bomb” so they could get out of class. Of course they weren’t charged with felonies. The police WERE called, but after a stern talking to and short suspensions, they were back in class.
    I think the latter would have been more appropriate in this situation, not this overboard post-9/11, post-Columbine panic that our country seems to be doing these days. I think punishment of some sort was in order, even if it truly was an innocent experiment. If for no other reason, it should be to point out the fact that science experiments can be hazardous to oneself and others if not performed in a controlled manner. Expulsion and felony charges, however, were not appropriate.

    • In this case it was actually preparation for her science fair exhibition, and even the principal admitted that it was a school project and that she was not suspected for having done it for maleficiant purposes. And still he had her handcuffed and charged. That is why I wrote the piece…
      And, even if she had done a pipe bomb, children will be children and should not be charged for being curious, even though they do stupid things now and then.
      With todays rules and ways of operating pretty much everyone here would have been handcuffed and charged. And I would say that we have all turned into regular pillars of society… Children will be children…

      • Exactly my point: The young make many mistakes. It’s part of growing up. They shouldn’t be saddled with charges that will last them the rest of their life. But there need to be consequences for mistakes, or they will be doomed to repeat them.

        • Oh, I agree on that there should be consequences for mistakes. But, I do not even see what Kiera did as a mistake.

  12. It verifies the growing observation by Glen Reynolds and others that sending ones children to the US government schools is tantamount to chile abuse. Cheers –

    • Roger on the chili abuse. That’s why I am ultra careful at family get-togethers about any chip dip that I make. Some of my concoctions can leave blisters. For ultra heat, I carry container of powdered Habanero and only add that at the request of the bravest of the brave. I then warn them that it’s gonna hurt.

      Several years ago, I took some store-bought dill pickles and re-canned them with a slice of habanero in each jar. (Never ever use the jars they come in, use canning jars. That’s the only way you can ensure that you get a good seal.) Anyway, my step son was working at a paving company at the time and had taken a jar with him as part of his meal. Over the next week or so, he cleaned me out of my specially prepared pickles. It turns out that his coworkers were daring each other to eat his pickles. It had become a contest of bravado and manliness to them.

      How I make my powdered habaneros.

      Obtain fresh ripe habeneros.
      Aquire a coffee grinder capable of doing an espresso grind. (ONLY use this for the peppers, coffee drinkers will probably kill you for using their grinder)
      Slice the stems off the habaneros, slice the body of the pepper in two. You may want to use gloves for this step.
      Place the habeneros in your dehydrator and remove as much moisture as you can. They should be crunchy in consistancy if you have dried them long enough. I dehydrate mine out doors on the porch due to the aroma.
      Place one or two in your grinder and run it till they are a powder. Place the powder in your small jar, repeat until you run out of peppers. One pound of peppers reduces to a few ounces of powder.

      To use, take a spoon and use the handle portion as your scoop. A little goes a LOOOONG way.

      You will either be a demi-god of hot stuff to your friends, or a mortal enemy. My favorite use is to take a container of sour creme, mix in a healthy quantity of dried onions, and a dash of habanero powder. Mix well and you have one kick ass chip dip.

      If you are in need of quick crowd control, mix the powder in a jar of alcohol. Dousing the leaders will tend to clear a path so you can escape. Alcohol instantly disolves the Capsicum oil and will carry it in the alcohol vapor. It will cause intense stinging of the eyes and tends to act as a choking agent.

      I was making a home-brew mosquito repellent using alcohol and a more tame variety of pepper. I still cleared my house out from the fumes. Even the dogs fled to the backyard. I do not recommend this.

      • I go thru a quart or two of mango habanero salsa every two weeks. Dice a large tomato, 6 green onions and a medium mango. In a food processor, grind up 2 medium to large bunches of cilantro and 1 1/2 – 2 tomatoes. Add juice of one lime, 1/2 tsp sea salt, and 1/4 cup of habanero mash. More or less habanero mash depending on how badly you want your taste buds fried. Mix thoroughly in the food processor and then pour over and combine with the diced portion. It keeps for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator before changing colors. I shoot for about a 30-minute buzz. The cilantro makes it smell very green. Cheers –

  13. Carl states: “Kiera’s unjust punishment leaves the impression that science is still regarded as magic in Florida.”

    I live here… and you are probably correct. On more than one occasion I have seen eyes gloss over and am met with vapid stares as I try to explain some of the nuances of voclanology and geology. To my family, I’m just the crazy old grand dad sticking accelerometers in the ground and tossing bricks around the yard in order to measure small seismic waves.

    Crazy? Probably. But I can make a sauce that will scorch your taste buds. Note: Once you get a dish to the point that you can not taste what is in it… you’ve gone too far.

    And a bubble buster for some. IMO, Comino/Cumin and Curry are not hot and carry no native heat. They act as enhancers and open up the senses to the true power of the accompanying pepper. When used with pepper, they can blow your doors off.

    Colloquialism alert: “Blow your doors off” → Being passed by someone as if you are standing still. Sort of like when I was down on a highway in Arizona doing about 75 mph or so, and a tractor trailer rig passed me at over 100 mph. At several tones of mass, you yield to something with that much kinetic energy, or else. The law of gross tonnage applies. (a sort of unwritten nautical rule of thumb. Sure, the sailboat may have the right of way, but the 8500 tonne ship takes longer to stop, or turn) Just like the Strait of Malacca, transiting smaller ships really should sit outside the entrance to the traffic lanes and wait for a much larger ship to enter and then drop in behind it and follow along. You get this monster battering ram in front and have less to worry about from oncoming traffic. If they can’t see him coming, they sure as hell weren’t gonna see you.

    • Peppers are good for you…… Unfortunately I am one of those people whose genetic make-up balks at even Tabasco sauce. I have tried and tried but too spicy hot and I suffer…badly, endorphins do not seem to be released ,I just end up with a blistered mouth and feeling miserable. Bell peppers are OK…..I just cannot eat very fiery food. I therefore rarely buy ready meals as in some, chilli powder is used to cover up poor quality ingredients or even lack of content. Yesterday, I bought some Chinese spring rolls…. now these traditionally should be delicately flavoured not laced with 100% proof jalapeno. I have mouth ulcers this morning after one bite.
      I still add a little scotch Bonnet to my favourite Jamaican beef patty recipe though , but it IS very little :D.

      • Maybe your capsaicin receptors dont desesensitise too easily to chilis.
        This might be of interest, its about the receptor for the active ingredient in hot peppers. They’re looking for novel drugs that interact with it, a new route to analgesics:

      • Lady Di – always try your hot stuff with some sort of dairy product – cheese or sour cream. The capsaicin is an oil that is immiscible in water, which is why ice water, teas or colas only seem to spread it out and make it worse. OTOH, it dissolves nicely in dairy products. So if you are starting, put a bit of Tabasco on whatever you are interested in eating and throw some shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream on it. You will get the initial heat and the oils will dissolve away quickly. This also gives you an excuse to eat ice cream (not Gellato / sherbert). Always start easy. If things are not hot enough for your mouth, you can always add more. Difficult to remove once added, which is where the cheeses and dairy products come in. This is one of the reasons a lot of cheese and sour cream are used in MexTex foods. Good luck. Cheers –

      • Hi Diana
        You should try Espelette Pepper. It is from Basque Country. It is low (4 000) on the scoville scale. I can get you some seeds if you like, I’m doing some again this year. When it is ripe, I make it dry then use a coffee grinder to get it as small flakes.


        There are also non spicy pepper (Piment végétarien) from the west indies, it is perfumed but not at all strong.

      • Guys, you are going at it the wrong way.

        To make Diana into a hot-lover all you have to say is this…
        Chili-fruits are lovely to grow in the garden since they naturaly keep away a lot of garden-pests. 😉

    • Same goes for parts of the English Channel and many a good port in the world. Problem is just that your sailboat will never be fast enough to keep up with the large ship. So you tend to hug the side of the channels now and then.
      A bit of good planning on the way in is also good, and always always stay in touch with the traffic control on the VHF. Sometimes they will set the speed at your speed as you go through. Pretty good feeling to have 200 000 tones of ship puttering 100 meters behind you at 5 knots.

      • On Chillis, the chili-fruit is a wonder of nature. Regular use will lower your blood cholesterol and it will also drop pounds off your waist since it increases the metabolic rate. It is also a good anti-viral agent, so you get sick a lot less if you eat it daily.
        And, it will keep you from growing an ulcer. Capcaicin (the hot stuff) kills the Helicobacter Pylorii bacteria so you do not get bacterial ulcers. Yeah 🙂

        There are several hard to get bacteria that dies out of exposure, but the problem is that the capsaicin is not nice to inject into the bloodstream, so using it as a broad-spectrum antiviral is not really possible.

    • Welcome to the fold of mute scientists. Its not only Florida. Its odd the our whole lives depend upon science and engineering yet the majority of our fellow humans just dont want to know. Not even at the most elementary level. The attitude ‘I dont know how they work I just drive them’ is accepted.

  14. Sigh. The mind boggles at some of the sheer stupidity in this world, and it seems to be us English speaking pseudo-democracies leading the way. Nothing even approaching that level of insane has come home from my daughter’s school yet, but when I compare the dumbed down, politically corrected and sanitised education she is receiving with what I got 30 years ago, I do wonder if our society has any future at all.

    In my own younger days, chemical experimentation was nurtured at home (dad is a metallurgist by original qualifications). Thus it was quite routine to make my own gunpowder, plus various other explosive and rapid burning substances created using potassium nitrate – sawdust plus KNO3 was particularly potent, and icing sugar plus KNO3 was also rather good. Dad also made a point of teaching me how to handle acids safely, so that I could fill my own balloons with hydrogen by reacting pieces of zinc strip with dilute HCL in a beer bottle. Great days.

    School science, and in senior grades, chemistry was also exciting. No problems with making things go bang, burning bits of magnesium, chucking sodium into water, making small mounts of chlorine gas … we did it all. I imagine that in Florida my Grade 11/12 chemistry teacher would be looking at serious charges, sadly I suspect this hick backwater we call Queensland wouldn’t be far behind in that.

  15. One of the few times there has beeen a small swarm that I can directly pinpoint as being fully magmatic in origin in Iceland. Askja just suffered a minor intrusion at depth of magma.
    04.06.2014 15:38:04 65.115 -16.645 19.0 km 1.7 99.0 8.7 km NNW of Dreki Wednesday
    04.06.2014 15:35:35 65.072 -16.693 16.4 km 0.6 99.0 5.5 km NW of Dreki Wednesday
    04.06.2014 15:35:14 65.084 -16.683 17.0 km 0.6 99.0 6.3 km NW of Dreki Wednesday
    04.06.2014 15:35:05 65.107 -16.690 18.1 km 0.2 99.0 8.6 km NNW of Dreki Wednesday
    04.06.2014 15:34:49 65.064 -16.703 17.5 km 0.3 99.0 5.4 km WNW of Dreki Wednesday
    04.06.2014 15:34:33 65.101 -16.671 17.3 km -0.3 99.0 7.7 km NNW of Dreki Wednesday

    The intrusion is the mustard coloured throbbing between 15.34 and 15.39. I know, it looks like nothing, but it is 🙂

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    The event blown up:
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

      • And no, it does not mean that Askja will go “boom”, it is just a minor deep intrusion. It is just that I am so happy with such a clear signal. I am also not saying that it might not mean that an eruption will occurr at some point in the future. This is all just a rare glimpse into the depths of a very large icelandic volcano.

        • Dreki has been stirring for a couple of years now – no doubt it will soon roar! (I think that Dreki means Dragon!)

          • There has so far not been much happening there really. There was probably a bit of old magma that moved up a bit and warmed up the lake, but that is about it in the last few years. The main activity is the magma moving upwards in Herdubreid area, but it is an unrelated activity.
            So, I am happy to see this little magmatic event 🙂

    • Apparantly it all started 2h 11 minutes before that with this quake. Also purely magmatic.
      Wednesday 04.06.2014 12:23:35 65.125 -16.611 19.2 km 0.2 99.0 9.6 km N of Dreki

    • Strange new career to be tropically depressed for Boris.

      The storm is dumping loads on Guatemala, my better half is getting drenched in torrential floods, and there is flooding and mudslides all over the place. I am actually quite worried for her. It is now the third day of heavy flood-rains.

      • What is so bizarr is that Boris is so slow. Boris came in over Guatemala 3 days ago, and they are still in the backend of it all. Must be the slowest tropical depression ever. Boris is not exactly hauling ass, but on the other hand, since it is so lovely there I understand that Boris wants to stay and water the volcanoes 😉

  16. I watched a show last year and Askja was one of the volcanoes mentioned. There were the references to the 1875 and 1961 eruptions. I don’t know how accurate Hazel Rymer , a professor at the Open university is but she has these instruments that she takes each year to see the change in gravity at various points on the volcano.

  17. The Silly Season of Icelandic Volcanism continues.
    Now Grimsvötn did something I thought would be a year or more away. During the morning there has been a spatter of small micro-quakes, but what sets this apart is what those micro-quakes led to. Namely extended harmonic tremoring. The initial micro-quake at 07.10.50 caused 1 hour 27 minutes of uninterupted harmonic tremoring caused either by vigorous fluid movement or magma moving past the gas exsolution point.
    Later micro-quakes have caused an additional of 4 more Harmonic tremoring episodes.
    I wonder what really happened during that time…

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    And here is the blown up version of the event:
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    • Well, given the earthquake activity around Kistufell & Bardarbunga, I would guess that a pulse / diapir of magma has been working it’s way into the volcanic systems of the area and slowly spreading out. If this is true, I suppose it would make sense to see an injection of magma at Grimsvotn.

      • Grimsvötn is pretty much receiving magma on a weekly basis, what I find interesting is that the volcano is starting to show signs of the arriving magma causing stress in the reservoir. She has really been unusually quiet lately so it is most likely a sign that she is functioning as she is supposed too 🙂

        • IMKO is not Kistufell/Bardarbunga, that is IDYN and IVON is Hamarinn/Vonarskard not Askja/Herdubreid that is covered by IASK. IMKO is Mokollar (that covers Upptyppingar/Herdubreid/Askja).
          The tremor on IMKO is most likely regular wind. and IVON is suffering from micro-quakes, but the tremor is wind.

          If we look at IDYN we see that there are earthquakes and micro-quakes but not a lot of tremor at all.

          At IASK we see earthquakes, micro-quakes and two episodes of magmatic earthquakes, one at Askja and one at Upptyppingar.

          Upptyppingar is also visible on IMKO

      • It is so good to see Grimsvötn at it, he has been so quiet since the last eruption. Now it is starting to look like he is back on track. It is surprising how much magma could reenter the system before the stress started to show.

      • Electrical malfunction. That would most likely be a malfunctioning capacitor discharging current. But, Lurking would be the better and saying exactly what might be the malfunction.

      • Yeah, it appears that something is wrong with a circuit. Lots of little pops like that that appear to have a common time base look a lot like something has opened/shorted and created a time circuit of some type. The individual pops are really too small to state what sort of charge/discharge it is, but here is what the trailing edges might look like.

        “T” means “time constant,” a function of the values of the components controlling the charge/discharge.

  18. Would it be possible for a dike intrusion to reactivate some of the old magma underneath Yellowstone?

    • Of course – but it would need to be a huge dike intrusion to do anything significant (but who knows at a volcano like Yellowstone).

      I personally believe that this is actually more often how things work with bi-modal volcanoes, or volcanoes that have large ryholitic chambers that can suddenly go boom. I know that Lassen Peak has worked in this manner (Erik K wrote a few articles about basalt injections activating and rejuvenating crystallized rhyolitic magma areas to erupt).

        • And, I am pretty certain that Yellowstone has a bit of intrusions from time to time without anything happening. In this case it could also equally well be that the magma is moving from one part of the chamber into another part as tectonic stress squezes the volcano.

  19. Interesting little swarm starting by Langjokull at the Prestahnúkur volcano area. Not used to seeing quakes around here in a swarm, although they obviously happen from time to time.

    05.06.2014 18:23:24 64.599 -20.714 2.3 km 1.5 90.01 13.2 km SE of Húsafell
    05.06.2014 18:12:06 64.597 -20.721 5.2 km 1.4 32.22 13.2 km SE of Húsafell
    05.06.2014 17:49:29 64.600 -20.693 5.4 km 1.6 40.34 13.8 km SE of Húsafell
    05.06.2014 17:49:01 64.605 -20.698 7.2 km 1.6 60.81 13.2 km SE of Húsafell
    05.06.2014 17:27:18 64.587 -20.759 1.9 km 1.3 51.82 13.3 km SSE of Húsafell
    05.06.2014 17:19:19 64.588 -20.709 3.4 km 1.0 99.0 14.3 km SSE of Húsafell
    05.06.2014 17:11:27 64.601 -20.689 10.5 km 1.1 99.0 13.8 km SE of Húsafell
    05.06.2014 16:25:25 64.602 -20.676 2.2 km 1.5 99.0 14.1 km SE of Húsafell

    • I have seen a couple of swarms there. It is definitly still an seismically active volcano. I should though point out that there are not volcanic earthquakes, it is tectonic.

  20. Pretty http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27678862

    The Kiera story reminds me of my science teacher. He was game. We asked him to make us some contact explosive. He did. He put a big pile on a ceramic tile and taped it on. Then he fastened the tile to the science lab wall. He told us that it would explode when he hit it with a large steel ruler. He hit it several times, to no avail. One cheeky lad offered to lend his muscle….”I’ll do it Sir”. He did do it. It blew a hole clean through the lab wall into the school corridor behind. 🙂

  21. Let me see if I have this list correctly… This are the deep magmatic earthquake swarms I know of in Iceland, I think the list is fairly complete. I might have mixed up a year here or there.

    1998-2010 Various swarms at Gódabunga
    1998 Eyjafjallajökull
    2004 Grimsvötn
    2006 Askja
    2007 Upptyppingar
    2008 Krysuvik
    2010 Eyjafjallajökull
    2010 Grimsvötn

    I guess that you all notice how few of these there has been in Iceland. The regular swarms can have some magmatic components, but they are not purely magmatic volcanic earthquakes.

    2014-06-05 Askja/Upptyppingar/Grimsvötn

    Is it just me reacting that 3 separate large volcanoes suffer from deep magmatic volcanic earthquake swarms on the same day? It will be interesting to see the effects on the GPSes in the coming days and weeks. Sad that the ones at Askja are not public.

    • What I am trying to say is this, Christmas came early in Iceland this year in regards of magmatic swarms.

      • So what are the odds of three happening on the same day without being directly interconnected? Except if there is some higher force behind it 😀

        Katla and Godabunga also had a few spots recently, with a few deep ones. Latest is M1.1 in the caldera at interesting 27km depth.

        • I would definitely saying that it is Lower force behind it 😉
          One do not have to look far for a connection, remember that the hotspot has its center under Kistufell. So basically the neares volcanoes to it is reacting at the same time. Turmoil in the netherworld.

          Katla and Godabunga is the usual activity, same goes for Langjökull.

      • From rick on May fifth:

        “Remove the rainbows, add some earthquakes, hot temperatures, two continents moving away. Hope you get the picture I am painting.”

        Maybe one of the place trying to head south with the scrum not quite succeeding to push the opposition into back gear, an image assembled from memories of readings on propagating oceanic ridges and on the Easter plate?


  22. Here it is the national day. It has absolutely nothing to do with the D-day, and that is one of the reasons I think our national day is a pretty bad idea.
    Almost no Swede knows why it was chosen as the national day. The honest truth is that it was elected for bureaucratic purposes. It used to be the national flag day, but that in and of itself is a rather odd notion since we actually do not have a recognized flag. Yes, we do use the blue and yellow thingy, but it has never been elected as the flag, either by King nor Parliament.
    So, some bureaucrat decided that we should stop being the only country without a national day on the planet. And in 1983 the parliament yawned its way through electing the 6th of june as national day. It took untill 2006 before it was actually a public holliday. And not a single swede celebrates it.
    So, we have a national day we do not celebrate and a flag that we do not have. What else? You think we have a national anthem? Think again. We do not. The one used has never been elected as such. Properly it should actually be “The Kings Anthem” that we sang, but that is not the national anthem either. There has been discussions for 103 years now on voting for a national anthem, but we never seem to get around to actually doing that.

    Now one would think that we do not pride ourselves upon our country? Well, we do, but we do that evenly over the year and in a rather cool fashion. After all why bother with great displays? After all we are one of the oldest countries on the planet in existence, one of the countries with the longest unbroken peace, one of the best economies and so on and so forth… How old? Well we remember when we last occupied the newcomer country of England back in 1066 😉 But bother about showing national pride? Well, that is what we have Hockey for. And you can probably expect us to get around to getting a flag and a national anthem in the next five hundred years or so… or not.

    Morning rant over 🙂

    Adendum: I am terribly sorry to say this, but unless you have a Hockey team you do not exist according our way of recconing things. Terribly sorry. We will though help you to get one if you wish. 😉

    • One should remember that the crust is thicker over at Katla. I could not see any clear sign that it is magmatic, it seems to be an ordinary deep swarm which is not that unusual at Katla. It is still also very small and at low energy levels for that particular volcano. Normal operations I would say 🙂

  23. There will be a new post in a few minutes with Riddles… It is the start of this summers long-winded series of Summer Reading Material.

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