Disaster 4: Verneshot



The Earth is a gun and your country is a bullet.
No, those aren’t poorly translated Japanese metal band lyrics; those words could be, terrifyingly enough, a completely accurate and literal statement. It’s all because of something called a Verneshot, and though the theory is still under debate, it is the only one so far that explains why mass extinctions, severe geological damage, and volcanic eruptions often occur simultaneously all throughout history. See, scientists were not content to simply chalk it up as “some shit that went down,” so they started looking for a phenomena that would explain the recurring combination of these seemingly unrelated disasters.

Some researchers began pointing to the Verneshot. And then probably screaming. And then dying.

New theories suggest that the disaster that killed the dinosaurs, long thought an asteroid strike, could have actually been caused by a Vernesho. A team of scientists led by Jason Phipps Morgan at the GEOMAR Earth Science Institute at Kiel University first proposed the theory, which goes like this: Huge volumes of volcanic gas slowly build up beneath layers of impenetrable rock called cratons. When those rocks start splitting apart ever so slightly, the built- up gases explode through the weak points–blowing the craton into a suborbital trajectory. The expelled chunk of rock is launched into the air, orbits the Earth briefly, and then crashes back to the planet with nearly the force of a meteor impact. Meanwhile, the tube that formerly held all the gas has emptied, pouring its noxious contents into the atmosphere. It then collapses in upon itself, causing an earthquake.

It sounds like just a more extreme version of a volcanic
eruption–big rock, gases, seismic activity–but the twist is in the
scale of the thing: See, cratons are usually gargantuan. About the size
of a country, to be exact, and that’s a bad size for something that’s
being shot at your face. But the rock isn’t your only worry: The tube
that launched it–also hundreds of miles wide–releases so much gas
that it poisons the entire atmosphere for thousands of years, blotting
out the sun and corrupting the air itself.  Devastating earthquakes
would trigger upon its collapse – estimates say they would be off the
current charts, an 11 on the Richter scale (the scientists in charge of
measuring this would have to create a new notch on the dial just to do
so, like the Spinal Tap of Earth-sciences).
But hey, let’s not
get distracted here; there’s still a small continent in the sky that
wants you dead. Let’s get back to that, shall we? Upon impact, the
blast would be akin to 7 million atomic bombs going off in the same
place, and at the same exact time. That’s too big a number for too bad
a thing to fully comprehend. So if it helps, picture it like this: The
city of London has a population of roughly 7 million. Imagine that the
entire metropolis is instead populated by atomic bombs. Atomic bombs in
place of secretaries, gas station attendants, and
schoolchildren–everybody. Exactly the same as London in every respect,
but instead of each individual person living there, there is a device
with exactly enough power to destroy Hiroshima.

And now, one of them trips.

Robert Brockway is the author of Everything is Going to Kill Everybody and an editor and columnist for Cracked.com and runs the successful humor site IFightRobots.com. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Find more of Robert’s Disaster A Day content here: Disaster A Day with Robert Brockway