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11 Secrets of Volcanologists

A volcanologist is a scientist, usually a geologist, who studies volcanos. How cool would that be? Well, "cool" might not be the best word, because the subject is hot. And necessary, as more than 600 million people live near one of the world's 1500 or so active volcanos. What volcanologists learn can help them to stay safe. Mental Floss talked to several volcanologists about their work. For example:

9. IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THE MOVIES.

One thing field volcanologists almost never use: those clichéd silver flame-proof proximity suits. "They're heavy, and since you usually have to walk hours to get to your field site, no one wants to carry all that weight," Soldati says. Besides, "heat is almost never the hazard that matters in the situations in which we work," writes Aaron Curtis, a volcanologist working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (You have a greater chance of "being hit by ballistics, or getting gassed," he notes.) "The reason you see those suits so often is that they look really cool on TV."

So what do they wear? Jessica Ball, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey, writes that "sturdy boots, hard hats, work gloves, rip-resistant clothing with long sleeves, and sunglasses or safety goggles are pretty standard, and I will add a gas mask if I’m going to be in an area with lots of fumes. Also, sunscreen is always important, because I’m often out in the sun all day."

There's a lot more about the work of a volcanologist at Mental Floss. 

(Image credit: Flickr user Yortw)


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