Thursday, March 7, 2013

10 Ways to Destroy Planet Earth

I was recently browsing and stumbled upon this article that caught my attention. Sam Hughes wrote a while back, describing the 10 best ways to destroy Earth, assuming you were a super villain of that caliber. You know, the kind of person that would destroy the birthplace of humanity and the only planet in the universe known to support life. That kind of person.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to give a brief summary of the top 10 ways to destroy all life; in descending order. If you want the more detailed list, I strongly recommend reading Ham Hughes' article.

10. The entire planet failing to exist

Basically, there is a theoretical probability that a particle can randomly cease to exist. The chances of this happening are very low, and for this method of Earth-destruction to work, all of the particles in the entire planet would have to stop existing simultaneously. The chances of this happening are so low that I don't feel like I need to even write it out. I wouldn't worry about this happening anytime soon, unless you believe in miracles, that is.

9. Consumption by strangelets

There "exists" a hypothetical form of matter called strange matter, a particle of which is a strangelet. This theoretical substance is a combination of quarks that would turn everything they touch into more strange matter. If a strangelet could somehow be released on the Earth, and kept stable, it could theoretically turn the planet into a strange ball floating around the sun.

8. Absorbed by a tiny black hole

If you could figure out how to make a stable yet microscopic black hole, all you'd have to do would be to place it on the ground somewhere and watch as the planet slowly disappeared. This tiny little black hole would fall straight through the Earth, eventually settling inside the core after falling through the other side of the planet a few times, absorbing matter as it went. Everything the black hole touched would be absorbed, adding to the hole's mass. In just a little while, Earth would be nothing but a black hole - visible only with a microscope - orbiting the sun.

7. Hit it with antimatter!

This one is pretty obvious. Antimatter, when it interacts with regular matter, converts entirely to energy, making it the most powerful explosive material in existence. However, a massive amount of antimatter would be needed to blow up the Earth. I don't know if you realize this, but Earth is big. Hughes calculates that we would need 2,500,000,000,000 tons of the substance to really do the job. On the "bright" side, Earth would be reduced to a belt of rubble orbiting the Sun.

6. Use the energy of vacuum

It has been theorized that the "vacuum" of space isn't actually a vacuum afterall. Instead, space is really just an overall vacuum, filled, on an atomic scale, with a soup of particles and antiparticles constantly coming into existence and then meeting each other and blinking back out of existence. If this were so, it would theoretically be possible to harness the energy of the vacuum. Once this energy is harnessed, it could be released to destroy the planet.

5. Absorbed by a not-so-tiny black hole

This method requires a full-fledged black hole. Something on the order of a collapsed star. Once you find such a black hole, all that is necessary is to bring it and Earth close to each other. Nature will do the rest. The black hole will absorb Earth and continue on its merry way.

4. One piece at a time

This method requires a lot of manual labor. If you could get a mass driver (short definition: a cannon that fires stuff) big enough, you could just fire Earth off into space, one shovelful at a time. Basically, all you'd have to do is find some reliable method of getting matter out of Earth's gravity well. This could be a mass driver or a space elevator or even a nearly infinite quantity of rockets. Once you have your delivery method, you just start firing bits and pieces of the planet into space until there's nothing left.

3. Hit it with something that's not antimatter

An impact of enough force can destroy anything. Using the good ol' equation, force=mass X acceleration we can say that a certain force is necessary to destroy the planet. After that, it's just a matter of finding the right balance between speed and mass (the acceleration comes from the "particle" decelerating when it hits Earth). Throwing something like Mars or Venus at Earth would probably be the easiest solution. There are two limits to be aware of here. The first limit is the speed of light. If whatever you're throwing would have to be going faster than light to destroy Earth, then you can't throw it that fast. The other limit is size. If you were to shoot Earth with a pea with enough speed, it wouldn't stop as it traveled through the planet, and Earth would remain mostly unscathed. The pea just wouldn't be able to transfer all that kinetic energy. (Really what we're talking about here is the transfer of kinetic energy KE = 1/2mv^2)

2. Gray goo

Whenever someone talks about nano-robotics, the age old fear of von Neumann machines is brought up. A von Neumann machine is simply a robot that can replicate itself perfectly using only the materials needed. If you could create one of these machines that required mostly iron and let it do its thing, it would eventually turn the planet into a bunch of robots. After that, if the robots were installed with rockets, they could just fire themselves into the Sun.

1. Or you could just throw Earth at the Sun

The simplest and possibly most possible method of Earth-annihilation would be to just destabilize its orbit such that it falls into the Sun. After all, there is a giant nuclear furnace that would be up to the challenge just a little over 8 light-minutes away. The method of moving the planet, whether it be rockets or meteor impacts, is up to the destroyer-of-worlds.

I thought this was entertaining. But please, don't try any of this at home. Seriously, I live here too.

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