Friday Science Files
Sticking with my geothermal theme, I have listened with interest, about the almost eruption of yet another volcano in the Indonesia, one that appears to have halted itself for now. By a quirk of geology Indonesia is home to some of the most dangerous volcanoes on the planet. And in the past some of the most devastating volcanoes from Pinatubo in the early 1990s to Krakatoa to Tamora, the largest eruption in 10 thousand years have occurred in this part of the world.
But by far the most devastating was the class 8 mega-colossal eruption of a volcano called Toba about 73 thousand years ago in Indonesia. About 3000 cubic kilometres of material was ejected making it almost thirty times larger that Tambora in 1815. It is possible that Toba was the largest eruption in the past 25 million years.
I really hadn’t thought much about volcanoes and their effects on the Earth and its ecosystem until I read about Mt Kelud and the danger it posed to Indonesia. Then I began to wonder what it must be like for people and the ecosystems of 73 thousand years ago when Toba erupted.
I did some research and found that it appeared to had such a devastating effect on the world that people almost all died out. One of the studies that I read about said that the total population of humans may have plummeted to just 10 thousand in total globally and that this may have also caused the extinction of many of the other hominids. This study was able to make that conclusion by looking at the DNA of people from around the world. By tracing the female mitochondria researchers are fairly certain that all people to day are descended from that small gene pool who survived. The DNA dating shows that we have not yet had time to diversify sufficiently and because of that genetic bottleneck we are all quite common to one another.
It also tells us that the differences that many people use to divide us, are in fact superficial. Things like skin colour really seem not to be a racial divide and that people of the same skin color might be genetically less related to one another than people of differing skin colour. For instance two white from Europe might be further apart genetically than an Ethiopian and and a Scandinavian.
Funny that. We spend all that time and effort to differentiate and divide ourselves from others and something like an eruption tells us that we have been using erroneous criteria to segregate ourselves. So maybe its time not to divide at all. Maybe its time to celebrate the fact that we have survived and that survival can be used to link us all together.
Strange how a news event turns the screws of thought and conjecture.
Add New Comment