Friday, 25 November 2016

09:35 – Colin and I couldn’t find any wild women, so we (re)watched old disaster/horror movies last night.

One of those was Supervolano, on Netflix streaming. It’s a BBC production, obviously done on a small budget. The only actor I recognized was Shaun Johnston (Grandpa Jack from Heartland). The special effects were kind of cheesy at times, but that’s the only criticism I can make of the movie. Nearly all science-based films and TV series make little or no effort to get the science right. I was stunned by how accurately this film portrayed real science. No throwing around science-y words. No scientific bogosity. They actually got it right, at least as far as I could tell. I’m no vulcanologist, but I do have a pretty good layman’s understanding of geology, tectonics, and so on, and I didn’t spot any clangers. One review on Amazon.com explained why:

Actually… it’s pretty good science
By Ultramafic on November 1, 2008

Contrary to what one fellow reviewer avers, the science in Supervolcano is actually pretty accurate… at least that’s what the real head of the real Yellowstone Volcano Observatory says: “Scientists from USGS, Yellowstone National Park, the University of Utah and elsewhere in academia were visited by the film’s producer and writer, prior to filming. They asked us countless questions during script development, including the following: How do you monitor the volcano? What phenomena imply an eruption? Who is responsible for what tasks? What do you do in the field? Where do you stay? How do you get around? Later, we reviewed a draft script for the drama and provided them with our comments and critiques. Michael Riley, the actor playing the YVO scientist-in-charge, phoned me twice, and we had lengthy conversations about topics ranging from “my typical day” to dress code to the proper pronunciation of place names and geological jargon. In the end, the BBC Science team did an impressive job of addressing the sorts of scientific issues we would grapple with during the start of an eruption. The drama unfolds as a true scientific thriller, both gripping and fact-filled. The characters, though based only loosely on real people, had motivations and interests similar to mine and those of my colleagues. Although we strongly would have preferred portrayal of the effects of a small eruption, their intent was always to provide a worst-case scenario, and the final product did that very well.” [Jake Lowenstern, “Truth, fiction and everything in between at Yellowstone” GEOTIMES, June 2005; see […]

For those who don’t want to read this interview, I’d just add a couple notes in response to one negative review to this movie: Pyroclastic flows do not need to be going downhill to flow–in fact, they not only can flow laterally for miles, but they can flow UPHILL(that’s what killed David Johnston at Mt St Helens]; in “Supervolcano,” I don’t recall a cargo door falling off an aircraft to admit the eruption’s sulfurous fumes, but I do recall that in real instances, such fumes have got into aircraft that have flown through volcanic plumes (and, while the critic is correct that the USGS does issue volcano alerts for aircraft now, this was not always the case: the current practice was the result of pretty much exactly the experience shown in Supervolcano–although with a much smaller volcano, of course–and doubtless the example was included because most viewers are probably unaware of this danger). Anyway… the movie is good, does an excellent job explaining the science within the plot & dialogue, without seeming pedantic, and… well, it makes us wish we had Wendy Reiss in charge of FEMA.


Socialists/communists often attempts to explain their failures by blaming them on “bad luck”. To do otherwise would be to admit that their economic systems are inherently broken and dysfunctional. Like all kids of my generation, I grew up hearing the standard story of Thanksgiving, with the brave and hard-working people of the Mayflower Colony nearly starving to death because of bad luck. I never thought much about that until yesterday, when I read the real story of Thanksgiving: The Great Thanksgiving Hoax (Or How The Pilgrims Ended Socialism 400 Years Ago)

Or, as a Soviet worker commented decades ago, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.” I haven’t attempted to verify the Thanksgiving Hoax story, although it shouldn’t be difficult to do. Governor Bradford’s writings are easily found. I didn’t bother, because this alternate account of events is credible. Every time that socialism or communism has been tried, it’s failed miserably. Yet another example is happening right now in Venezuela, with a large percentage of the population literally starving in what, given its oil reserves, should be one of the richest countries on the planet.

William R. Forstchen touches on this in his post-apocalyptic novel, One Second After, where the authorities consider confiscating “excess” food and supplies from prepper families and farms. The protagonist correctly points out that nothing good will come of this, and that they’re better off co-operating and encouraging voluntary free trade to optimize their supply situation.

The free market is the best and most efficient economic system that’s ever been devised, and that’s true whether conditions are normal or a catastrophic emergency had occurred. Let’s hope that if such an emergency does occur, wiser heads will prevail. I suspect that would be the case in some areas, but by no means all.