Top Tunes To Watch The World End By

I was thinking about this a lot today, after a conversation with a friend. What songs would I want to listen to if I thought the world were ending? Would I want to get into the apocalypse and disaster theme? Hell yes.

Let’s have a bit of fun, and pretend the tales of impending doom surrounding tomorrow the 21st December are true. If the world is ending, at least we can have a good time and pretend that we’re the stars of some day after the day before nonsense Hollywood film. But caution: let’s not start believing it’s actually true! So without further ado, here’s my list of Top Tunes.

1. Apocalypse Please – by Muse.

This is a classic. The frenetic piano and the thudding, marching drumbeat with Bellamy’s plaintive wailing make this a distinct and no-holds-barred contender on the list.

2. Apocolips – by Turin Brakes.

Okay, this may just be my favourite. I’ll be the clouds, you’ll be the rain. Hey, we’ll find another way. I’ll help take away all your pain. The enunciation is slightly off-kilter and just perfect. The mood is one of sombre and jittery anticipation. Flowers by the roadside is all that is left you can feel your hands feel your pockets for your last breath. God it’s the best!

3. Reign – by UNKLE.

A song full of feeling. A personification of the storm. A feeling of being caught unawares by it. You thought a different day had come… With gentle orchestral strings culminating in a symphony of strained sound, it’s well worth a listen

4. The Catalyst – by Linkin Park.

I really like the Thousand Suns album by Linkin Park. Influenced by the Japanese atom bombings, it’s so different from their usual nu-metal fare and – such emotion! The Catalyst is strained and almost distressing, proper end-of-world fare, all the more emotive because of the real-world catastrophic roots in which it is based.

5. Apocalypse – by Neva Dinova.

Just put it on and listen to the lyrics. It will chill you.

6. The Finish Line – by Snow Patrol.

Another slow-onset one like Neva Dinova’s. Listen to the lyrics and relax. It’s beautiful.

7. Spirit of Survival – by Yes.

This one is a more positive song – depicting a struggle of sorts, the desire to live on in a world shunned by the gods. This gets in the top ten for its epic soundtrack, mixing a real orchestra with the prog prowess of Yes. It’s a good nine minutes but it’s worth it. Did I mention it was epic?

8. When The World Ends – by the Dave Matthews Band (Oakenfold remix).

I love the Oakenfold remix of this song! It’s actually from one of the Matrix soundtracks, and it really delivers on the apocalyptic front.

9. 6 to 8 – by AFI.

Six figures enter, they’ve come to destroy the world… A soulful AFI number here.  The whole song is a gradual crescendo from delicate, haunting guitar work to echoey rock with a punk chorus. Many, many good feels!

10. Doomsday – by Nero.

Now to finish up why don’t we have some fun, silly all-round epic dubstep? No? Well tough. Doomsday by Nero is my final choice. I can totally imagine Morpheus’s followers rocking out to this one in Zion.

Other songs that deserve a mention but didn’t quite make it to my top ten:

  • Witness – by Show of Hands
  • When The Sea Comes – by Duels
  • Radiation – by I Am Kloot
  • The Tempest – by Pendulum
  • The 2nd Law: Isolated System – by Muse
  • The Sky Is Falling – by Thrice
  • The Furies – by Duels
  • Fly on a Windshield – by Genesis
  • Rapture – by Laura Veirs

I have made this a Spotify playlist if anybody would like to have a listen!
Here is the Spotify URI: Songs To Watch The World End By


What apocalypse songs would YOU like to listen to at the end of the world? Make a suggestion and I can add it to the playlist!

Pumice rafts off New Zealand

In August of this year, a vast pumice raft was spotted off the coast of New Zealand. This is a rather interesting phenomenon – rocks floating in the ocean! – and it arises from the fact that pumice is lighter than water.

See, pumice has tons of vesicles in it – namely, air holes, gaps in the rock. It is made from very viscous, ‘bubbly’ magma. In other words, it is the froth on the latte of a volcanic eruption.

First noticed by a New Zealand marine aircraft, and reported by science writer Rebecca Priestly, who happened to be sailing close by, this particular pumice rafting event was not caused by what we would think of as a ‘normal’ volcano. No – it was underwater. It was apparently caused by Havre seamount in the Kermadec Islands, the volcanic byproducts of an underwater subduction zone just north of New Zealand.

The weirdest thing for me when studying geology was finding out that pumice rafts can appear as a result of underwater volcanic activity. Undersea volcanoes are usually typified by mafic magmas, whereas pumice is more commonly associated with felsic or andesitic activity – stratovolcanoes such as Mount St Helens, or Vesuvius.  It’s got the same chemical formula as obsidian, which is often associated with a type of felsic magma called rhyolite.

And, to further these associations, when Vesuvius erupted in 72AD the resultant Plinian style eruption column rained out a crap-ton of pumice over the sea in the Bay of Naples.  This made sense to me when I first heard it – Vesuvius is andesitic. So in my mind, pumice equals felsic, andesitic, big Vesuvius-type stuff.

What was new to me was realising that pumice can quite often be mafic, and that underwater volcanic eruptions involving mafic material and pumice are actually quite common. Just take a look at this image from a study published in PLOS earlier this year[1].

[1]The study is actually open access, so you will be able to download and read at your leisure.

So what kind of conditions would lead to an undersea volcano producing pumice rafts? Well, they are very common around subduction zones, where you will find more violent forms of eruptive activity that are more likely to cause the viscous bubbliness necessary for pumice to form. Not that it doesn’t happen in spreading ridge settings, it’s just less common. The major pumice rafts in the news recently have been from the Tonga – Kermadec region.

This particular raft grew to over 20,000 square kilometres. A venerable floating island indeed. It is made all the more interesting by the fact that pumice in recent years has been shown to be a decent substrate for distribution of marine life around the oceans. Take a look at this snapshot of a piece of pumice colonized by various life forms. How cool is that?


Some modern maritime hijinks with ‘The Sea Detective’.

I am tired today because I was up late – very late – last night finishing off reading The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home. What a fantastic book!

I saw the blurb on Amazon a few weeks ago, and it was upon discovering that the book is about ‘a part-time PhD oceanography student with a macabre interest in floating corpses’ that I really got hooked. Science and intrigue? Geologist writer is happy.

The book totally lived up to what I expected from the blurb, and beyond. It’s quite complex as there are about three parallel stories running throughout the book, but it was all wonderfully paced (although I sort of feel the ending wrapped up rather too quickly… but perhaps it’s my own frustrations with word counts coming out there!) and it kept my mind engaged. The characterisation was brilliant, especially the uncomfortably-realistic conversations between Cal and his estranged wife! And mega-props for creating my favourite character ever – Detective Jamieson, the ultimate anti-Sue. Her internal monologues while talking to her boss (a misogynistic policeman who could easily be a supporting character in Irvine Welsh’s Filth) are very entertaining and I found myself cheering adamantly for her the entire way.

The fact that the main character, Cal, is an oceanography student makes the whole book quite relatable, and I enjoyed the mentions of things I have been studying the past semesters – especially the Dryas Octopetela. And finally, the whole premise of solving crimes by using ocean current simulations has intrigued me beyond the scope of the book – I’ve actually half a mind to go check out if there’s any research being done into stuff like this, as I’ve never thought about it in a human context before!

I think this is a book that most of my sciencey friends would enjoy (especially those starting the Oceanography module with me next Feb!). And it’s just a good book in general for anyone wanting a fast-paced thriller, with the added benefit that they will find out a few wee sciencey nuggets along the way.

Finally, the book hit a bit of a personal note with the family history thing, and weirdly I found myself wanting to go back to both Edinburgh and the Outer Hebrides. It’s not often people write so eloquently about places I know, so, dear author, I congratulate you.