An upcoming TV miniseries about a huge earthquake on the West Coast, which will air on NBC May 2 and 3, will scare people who live there, despite the fact that it has no basis in science, unlike The Day After Tomorrow, which will arrive in movie theaters on May 28 and is based on the science explained in The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber.
In NBC's disaster drama "10.5," massive quakes topple the Golden Gate Bridge and tsunamis from the Pacific drown Los Angeles. Scientists attempt to interrupt the quakes by fusing the San Andreas Fault closed with atomic explosions.
Seismologists say California residents should stay calm?the San Andreas fault isn't capable of generating such a large quake. Lucy Jones, of the U.S. Geological Survey, says, "The production is blatantly inconsistent with everything we know about earthquakes. It's complete science fantasy, but as long as people know that nothing about it could be true, they can sit back and enjoy it."
Executive producer Howard Braunstein says the film is meant to be "fun entertainment." Asked whether he consulted earthquake experts, he says, "Not really. We went on the internet for backup research."
This is reminiscent of Orson Welles' radio show "War of the Worlds," which convinced people who tuned in late that a Martian invasion was taking place.
Whitley Strieber says, "The United States Geological Survey offers up-to-date quake news and excellent scientific education on earthquakes geared to all knowledge levels from grade school to grad school. The Earthquake Information Network offers links to dozens of different scientific and educational sites on earthquakes as well as information about recent major quakes. The Japanese Earthquake Information Center also provides information on earthquakes worldwide. If you want to get earthquake reports delivered right to your computer, you can go to USGS Services and sign up. But put your minimum quake size at about six, or you'll get dozens of reports! And remember, if you get caught in a 10.5, don't worry about the Golden Gate Bridge, worry about your own bridgework. Your problem is going to be with your teeth shattering. But they don't mention that in the NBC movie."
With the volcanic rumblings in Yellowstone National Park, nearby residents are wondering whether to stay or flee. They might take a cue from people in Naples who live on a volcano. Despite the fact that Vesuvius last blew up in 1944, killing hundreds of people in the 18 towns that lie along its slopes, people have moved back. Filippo Alaia, who was 10-years-old at the time, says, "I remember it very well. ''The older boys lit their cigarettes on the pools of lava."
Malcolm Billings writes in bbcnews.com that lava is not as dangerous as most people think. Researcher Bill McGuire says, ''You would have to be nailed to the floor to be killed by lava, it moves so slowly.''
After the last eruption, people re-built their homes, using the new, eight-foot layer of lava as foundation. Why take the risk? One reason is that volcanic soil grows wonderful tomatoes and grapes. Also, the view is incredible at the top.
Vesuvius is a time bomb waiting to erupt. It?s deceptively quiet right now, with only a little steam rising from it. One sign it?s about to erupt would be if wells dried up, as they did before the eruption of 1631. Researchers say the people living on the volcano will get no more than a two week warning.
Pompeii and Herculaneum are being studied in order to try to determine what killed so many people during the eruption 2,000 years ago in 79 AD. Recently discovered skeletons have been analyzed by Andrew Wallace Hadrill, who has discovered they were waiting to escape on boats. A column of ash and gas suddenly shot 20 miles into the sky, and the volcano began to collapse. He says, ''Then a hurricane of gas and ash whooshed down the sides of the mountain.? The fossilized bodies can still be seen, lying on the ground in the same positions they were in when they died. Hadrill says, "They died instantaneously, their flesh stripped off their bones while the intense heat boiled their brains.''
The government is paying people to move off the volcano?but it's also paying them to convert their houses into hotels for tourists. Are tourists expendable? No, it's just that they won't insist on staying behind to protect their valuables when the volcano starts to rumble?they'll pack their bags and exit immediately.
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