It is with great sadness that we have learned that Henrik Lovén has passed away. Volcanocafe is run by volunteers, often people who have never met, may not know each other by face and communicate by chats. Such is the on-line world, where people are brought together by a shared interest. One of those volunteers was Henrik Lovén. On VC he wrote under the name of Pyrite and Léon Prunelle, but also used his real name. I used to believe that the Prunelle name came from Jerry Pournelle whom he met when the latter visited the Swedish army, but in fact Monsieur Prunelle is a character from the comic strip by Gaston Lagaffe, whom Henrik adored.
Henrik was the person who got me to start writing for VC, by contacting me directly after a comment I made on the blog. Nowadays that would be against our rules! He proposed a writer’s name for me but that led to some discussions. It baffled me why people would use pseudonyms on blogs. If there is no author, how can the writings be authorative? Our commenters use any label they like, but our posts mostly use names, although it is not a requirement. This discussion introduced me to someone who could argue coherently and creatively, on occasion might change his mind (not too often), and truly excelled in language.
I will let Henrik introduce himself:
I am not a physicist and I’ve never studied physics at higher level than college, even if I used to be an avid amateur astronomer in my youth. I spent the best part of two decades in the Swedish Army where I attained the rank of major at the Royal Guards. At the age of 38, I quit almost 20 years ago and entered university where I majored in English (linguistics) and History after which I have taught at “Junior High” through college and up to teacher school at uni. I’ve also been the MD of a bandy club (IF Boltic) which once won several European Championships but at present, I am unemployed after fighting colorectal cancer which had metastasised for the best part of the past two years. 30% are pretty darn good odds if you’re prepared to fight for it and it seems I have – touch wood – won. Also, I have started to write and have completed one book and am working on a further two. Nothing published yet as I’ve done it more as an exploration of my own limits than with the stated goal of becoming a published author. My greatest achievement in science is the Katla-series on Volcanocafé in 2012 where after two years of awakened interest in volcanology, I challenged the then-current view on that volcano as championed by Professor Páll Einarsson. Coincidentally, this is now the current view on that mountain adopted by Allmannavarnir and IMO. (What probably happened was that someone else pointed out the same thing and backed it up with solid evidence from research). Alas, there’s a chasm in my profile at mathematics, the language of science, where I only make it into the 1-percentile, so I am very much the philosophera and not a scientist. I guess it shows!
Henrik wrote this in June 2015. In his Katla posts, he posited that Askja was “Katla’s defrosted twin”, and argues that there were many more minor eruptions than was recognized. What I found to be his best work came around this time. This was when VC made the news with its series on the most dangerous and underrated volcanoes in the world. His post on Taal was magnificent, and in presenting the ‘number one’, Iwo Jima, he broke new ground by writing it as a story. We worked together afterwards on a similar story on Olympus Mons, something he had mentioned as an interest already when he first contacted me, writing: I have an idea for a different format of scientific article, a method that can be applied to education as well, that in this particular case would necessitate the invention of a plausible Martian air transportation vehicle, one capable of ascending the 8 km high escarpment. In this I became his consultant on physics and math – I can confirm his chasm with numbers! One of the characters of this story, Adewele Adebajo, is named after a student friend he met while on a language school in Cambridge. The main character, Gerry, seems based on Henrik himself.
We met in person twice. The first time was a few months after a major operation in September 2015. The day before we met he received the news that his cancer had returned, and was in his liver. He was given 1-2 years to live something he was adamant to proof wrong. There followed a phase with an experimental treatment which he finally ended although he continued his battle against cancer. He could be a combative person who felt that cancer -and other people- should do as it was told. (According to himself, this came from his military background.) HIs emails became sporadic and he withdrew from VC. His political sympathies diverged far from mine at this time but we still shared a fascination with volcanoes.
His personality and his way with words came out in some expressions he used in our communications. Here are some ‘Henrikms’:
We had this saying in the army – an assured manner may conceal an ocean of ignorance!
As a former officer, I am used to that once a decision has been made, everyone pulls in the same direction and that something which takes an hour, does take an hour. (Obviously he didn’t know scientists very well!)
In my best Gandalf immitation: “Civilians!”
At the (uni) teacher academy some ten years ago a statistically significant percentage of the students had decided that the asked for “no more than four pages, Times New Roman, 12 pt, single spacing” was nowhere near enough for them to put down everything they knew. Unfortunately, what they knew rarely had any relevance to the subject matter.
In our last email exchange, a month before his death, Henrik mentioned that his benefits had been cut and he could no longer afford the medicines he needed. But in the same email he mentioned a model he had developed for the Earth crust, saying Once I’m not overburdened with other, more acute concerns, and find myself with some energy I shall endeavour to put it down “on paper” and submit it to you for your views. It was not to be. VC has lost someone who kept the site going in times of adversity and inspired others to think. Sometimes too combative, sometimes too critical of others and too direct: it is the things that make us human. He was upset when his Mineralisation Processes post was deleted and lost, as gems were one of his big interests. We managed to republish it last week. Sadly it was too late for Henrik.
But to end in his own words
As we say in Sweden; God Fortsättning! (Wishing you a good continuance of Christmas)
And here is one of Henrik’s favourite posts