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An Eye for business

The ancient Romans believed that Vulcan, their god of fire, lived deep inside a fire-breathing mountain where he practiced his skill in forging weapons and armor and bolts of lightning flung by Jupiter, the father of the gods. Although local people and tourists won't find these sorts of military goods at the Vulcano Buono (The good Vulcano) shopping center near Naples (picture below), the artificial crater designed by top architect Renzo Piano does contain shops, a supermarket, restaurants, cinemas, a gym and a hotel. The Italian got his inspiration for the shape of the complex from nearby Mount Vesuvius. Perhaps he chose the location near Nola because the little town survived when the volcano erupted in 77AD.

shopping center near Naples

Not a good idea

The central motif of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lords of the Rings is that Rings of Power can only be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo played in the film by Elijah wood achieves the almost impossible. But the suggestion which frequently appears on the Internet that active volcanoes should be used for dumping nuclear waste will have to remain in the realms of pure fantasy. According to experts, this enduring problem would come back to haunt us sooner or later in the form of radioactive clouds and lava.

The ultimate price

Some volcanologist dedicate their lives to developing more reliable methods of predicting eruption and to understand the physical phenomena involved in them. The French husband and wife team of Katia and Maurice Kraft, for example, fired people's enthusiasm for the beauty of volcanoes through the spectacular photographs and film footage for which they risked everything. They were killed on 3 June 1991 during an eruption of Mount Unzen in Japan.

The French husband and wife team of Katia and Maurice Kraft


79AD Pliny the younger describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. In his Honor, explosive eruption are known as Plinian eruptions.

1815 The eruption of mount Tambora in Indonesia is the most violent since records began. It is estimated that 80,000 people starved to death as a result of their crops being destroyed.

1912 The theory of German researcher Alfred Wegener that the continents shift as a result of the movement of tectonic plates is falsely rejected.

1952 American scientist discover the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which was created by magma, pouring from the earth's interior and solidifying to form a range of mountains on the ocean floor. This proves that tectonic plates shift and that Wegener's theory is correct.

1980 Volcanologists raise the alarm weeks before Mount St Helens erupts in the USA. Their instrument showed that the volcano was active again.

2010 In April, Eyjafjalla Jökull on Iceland spews out gigantic clouds of ash, causing European airspace to be closed for days.