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This episode looks at the incredible energy that we all have below us, just a few kilometers below our feet, and the effect that it has had on shaping our world, and aiding science. We will follow the astonishing destructive force Volcanoes are capable of, and also how they shaped the landscape. Volcanoes both recent and in the past are looked at, including Pompeii, and it’s effect on life at the time. Also explained are the reasons that humans are drawn to the foot of volcanoes, weather active or inactive, and why we have always put ourselves in this danger. Further into this episode it is explained how the eruption of a volcano allows scientists to document, for the first time the concept of colonization, with at first, only hardy plants that can survive poor conditions moving into the area, and slowly transforming the landscape into somewhere livable once more.
Nature gives no true warning of when it will strike, and this makes its power all the more terrifying and devastating. Only about 9.5% of the earth is solid, including the iron core; this core is still as hot as the surface of the sun, and between this and the thin crust is a vast, hot, molten interior. And it’s not dormant; it is constantly circulating, alive with convection currents, the hottest lava pushing up towards the surface then spreading outwards beneath the cooled crust.
A state of the art graphic shows how it works. The molten interior expands with the heat of the core, rising towards the cooler surface, which then causes the material to contract and sink, only to go through the same process again, creating a constant churning cauldron of molten rock. This driving engine of energy is always looking for a weakness, always trying to break through the crust that contains it – and sometimes, it does. When this happens, we get a glimpse of the fiery turmoil within; it is no accident that the name volcano comes from Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire.
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