Posted in Science & Nature


If there is one thing we learn about dinosaurs, it is that they were wiped off the face of the Earth by an asteroid impact. Another feasible theory is that a supervolcano eruption completely destroyed the ecosystem, wiping out all life on Earth by either directly destroying them via a massive shockwave (if they were within range), or by slowly starving them as the resultant plumes of smoke would have blotted out the sun for years. But interestingly, scientists looking back over some extinction-level events of the past, discovered signs of both an asteroid strike and a volcanic eruption. This sounds to be extremely implausible, as the odds of both happening in the same era are near impossible (unless there is some extremely vengeful deity that hated the dinosaurs).

One theory that tries to explain all of this is the verneshot theory. To better understand the concept of a verneshot, imagine a cartoon character such as Yosemite Sam (the beloved red-bearded, gunslinging cowboy character on Looney Toons) shooting his gun wildly into the sky. Cartoon logic dictates that his bullets will eventually fall back on some unwary bystander. Now imagine if the Earth did the same thing, but instead of a bullet it shoots a giant piece of rock capable of causing mass extinction into the sky.

A verneshot occurs in a similar way a supervolcano erupts, where there is an incredible build-up of super hot molten rock. A supervolcano would be when this molten rock erupts as lava. In the case of a verneshot, massive amounts of carbon dioxide build up instead, leading to a pressure build-up under the crust. When the pressure becomes too much, the crust explodes, with the piece (of indeterminate size) being rocketed into space. However, the giant rock does not end up in space. Instead, it is only launched to a sub-orbital altitude, meaning it will come crashing back down to Earth due to gravity. Thus, a verneshot is when a volcanic eruption acts as a giant cannon to launch a piece of the Earth into the sky, which falls back to Earth as an asteroid-like object.

Posted in Science & Nature

Badass Weapons Of Nature: Bombardier Beetle

The bombardier beetle, or Brachymus creptians, has a “machine gun”. When attacked, it makes an explosive sound and spouts smoke.
This beetle combines chemicals from two separate glands to make the smoke. 
The first gland produces a solution of 25% hydrogen peroxide and 10% hydroquinone, while the second gland produces peroxidase, an enzyme that catalyses the reaction. When these solutions are combined and heated to 100°C, smoke and nitric acid vapour is produced and explosively released.

If you put your hand close to a bombardier beetle, it will rapidly release a scalding, noxious, red vapour. This nitric acid will cause blisters on afflicted skin.
Bombardier beetles also know how to aim the tip of its abdomen to target an enemy. Via this method, it can hit a target a few centimetres away. Even if it misses, the explosive sound will scare away any predator. 
Normally, bombardier beetles store enough chemicals for three or four shots. However, some entomologists have found that some species can fire up to 24 times in rapid succession if provoked.

As these beetles are a bright orange and silver-blue colour, they are very noticeable. They act as if they do not care if they are seen, as they are equipped with an effective cannon. Generally, beetles with a colourful coat have a unique, ingenious defensive mechanism to ward off curious animals and insects.
Despite this, rats that know that the beetle loves to use this “ingenious defensive mechanism” quickly grab the beetle and plant its abdomen in the ground. After attacking it continuously while in the ground to exhaust the beetle’s rounds, the rat bites off the head first.

(from the Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge by Bernard Werber)