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Sunday, October 19, 2008

SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY: Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth

I heard about this from the podcast/radio show, Paranormal Radio With Captain Jack. It's from Live Science. I thought it was perfect for Halloween!

I edited it down a bit, read the full version here. - OlderMusicGeek

Whether it took the Earth 4.5 billion years to get to where it is today (or a mere seven days), destroying it might take a lot less time. Sam Hughes presents a host of methods for ending the planet -- and life -- as we know it. Enjoy!
- By Sam Hughes

10. Total existence failure

You will need: nothing

Method: No method. Simply sit back and twiddle your thumbs as, completely by chance, all 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms making up the planet Earth suddenly, simultaneously and spontaneously cease to exist. Note: some kind of arcane (read: scientifically laughable) probability-manipulation device would probably have to be employed.

9. Gobbled up by strangelets

You will need: a stable strangelet

Method: Create and maintain a stable strangelet. Keep it stable for as long as it takes to absorb the entire Earth into a mass of strange quarks. Keeping the strangelet stable is incredibly difficult once it has absorbed the stabilizing machinery.

Earth's final resting place: a huge glob of strange matter.

8. Sucked into a microscopic black hole

You will need: A microscopic black hole. Creating a microscopic black hole is tricky, since one needs a reasonable amount of neutronium, but may possibly be achievable by jamming large numbers of atomic nuclei together until they stick.

Method: Simply place your black hole on the surface of the Earth and wait. The black hole will plummet through the ground, eating its way to the center of the Earth and all the way through to the other side: then, it'll oscillate back, over and over like a matter-absorbing pendulum. Eventually it will come to rest at the core, having absorbed enough matter to slow it down. Then you just need to wait, while it sits and consumes matter until the whole Earth is gone.

Earth's final resting place: a singularity of almost zero size.

Source: "The Dark Side Of The Sun," by Terry Pratchett. It is true that the microscopic black hole idea is an age-old science fiction mainstay which predates Pratchett by a long time, he was my original source for the idea, so that's what I'm putting.

7. Blown up by matter/antimatter reaction

You will need: 2,500,000,000,000 tons of antimatter

Antimatter can be manufactured in small quantities using any large particle accelerator, but this will take some considerable time to produce the required amounts. It may be possible - and much easier - simply to "flip" 2.5 trillion tons of matter through a fourth dimension, turning it all to antimatter at once.

Method: This method involves detonating a bomb so big that it blasts the Earth to pieces.

The gravitational binding energy of a planet of mass M and radius R is - if you do the lengthy calculations - given by the formula E=(3/5)GM^2/R. For Earth, that works out to roughly 224,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Joules. The Sun takes nearly a WEEK to output that much energy.

To liberate that much energy requires the complete annihilation of around 25,000,000,000,000 tonnes of antimatter. Once you've generated your antimatter, just launch it towards Earth. The resulting release of energy should be sufficient to split the Earth into a thousand pieces.

Earth's final resting place: A second asteroid belt around the Sun.

Earliest feasible completion date: AD 2500.

6. Destroyed by vacuum energy detonation

You will need: a light bulb

Method: Scientific theories tell us that what we may see as vacuum is only vacuum on average, and actually thriving with vast amounts of particles and antiparticles constantly appearing and then annihilating each other. It also suggests that the volume of space enclosed by a light bulb contains enough vacuum energy to boil every ocean in the world. All you need to do is figure out how to extract this energy and harness it in some kind of power plant - then surreptitiously allow the reaction to run out of control.

Earth's final resting place: a rapidly expanding cloud of particles of varying size.

Earliest feasible completion date: 2060 or so.

Source: "3001: The Final Odyssey," by Arthur C. Clarke

5. Sucked into a giant black hole

You will need: a black hole, extremely powerful rocket engines, and, optionally, a large rocky planetary body.

Method: After locating your black hole, you need get it and the Earth together. There are two methods, moving Earth or moving the black hole, though for best results you'd most likely move both at once.

Earth's final resting place: part of the mass of the black hole.

Earliest feasible completion date: I do not expect the necessary technology to be available until AD 3000.

Sources: "The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy," by Douglas Adams; SPACE.com

4. Meticulously and systematically deconstructed

You will need: a powerful mass driver or lots of them; ready access to roughly 2*10^32J

Method: Basically, what we're going to do here is dig up the Earth and boost the whole lot of it into orbit. A mass driver is a sort of oversized electromagnetic railgun - basically, you just load it into the driver and fire it upwards in roughly the right direction. We'd use one big enough to hit escape velocity of 11 kilometers per second even after atmospheric considerations - and launch it all into the Sun or randomly into space.

Earth's final resting place: Many tiny pieces, some dropped into the Sun, the remainder scattered across the rest of the Solar System.

Earliest feasible completion date: Ah. Yes. At a billion tons of mass driven out of the Earth's gravity well per second: 189,000,000 years.

Source: this method arose when Joe Baldwin and I knocked our heads together by accident.

3. Pulverized by impact with blunt instrument

You will need: a big heavy rock, perhaps Mars

Method: Essentially, anything can be destroyed if you hit it hard enough. The concept is simple: find a really big asteroid or planet, accelerate it up to some dazzling speed, and smash it into Earth, preferably head-on but whatever you can manage. The result: an absolutely spectacular collision, resulting in Earth and our "cue ball" being pulverized out of existence.

Earth's final resting place: a variety of roughly Moon-sized chunks of rock, scattered haphazardly across the greater Solar System.

Earliest feasible completion date: AD 2500, maybe?

Source: This method suggested by Andy Kirkpatrick

2. Eaten by von Neumann machines

You will need: a single von Neumann machine

Method: A von Neumann machine is any device that is capable of creating a copy of itself given nothing but the necessary raw materials. Create one of these that subsists almost entirely on iron, magnesium, aluminum and silicon, the major elements found in Earth's mantle and core. As the population of machines doubles repeatedly, the planet Earth will be entirely eaten up and turned into a swarm of potentially sextillions of machines.

Earth's final resting place: the bodies of the VNMs themselves, then a small lump of iron sinking into the Sun.

Earliest feasible completion date: Potentially 2045-2050, or even earlier.

Source: "2010: Odyssey Two," by Arthur C. Clarke

1. Hurled into the Sun

You will need: Earth moving equipment

Method: Hurl the Earth into the Sun. You don't actually have to literally hit the Sun (send the Earth near enough to the Sun (within the Roche limit), and tidal forces will tear it apart).

Earth's final resting place: a small globule of vaporized iron sinking slowly into the heart of the Sun.

Earliest feasible completion date: Via act of God: 25 years' time. Any earlier and we'd have already spotted the asteroid in question. Via human intervention: given the current level of expansion of space technology, 2250 at best.

Source: "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers," by Grant Naylor

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