Blowing up the universe.
February 22, 2007 10:41 PM   Subscribe

How to blow up the Earth (with a coffee can), and why we should, along with some discussion of how it is done in fiction. Blowing up the moon (and how the US nearly did in 1958, with the help of Carl Sagan), and lots of reasons why, including one in song [YouTube]. How to blow up a star. How we might accidentally blow up the universe in November. [prev. discussion of Earth destruction]
posted by blahblahblah (32 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The final stuff on universe destruction is mostly related to the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven, which is operational. The “new threat,” for those who worry about such things, is the much larger Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Here is their report on the chance of destroying the universe [pdf], which, on page 5, concludes “the worst-case scenario cannot be excluded based on these data alone.".
posted by blahblahblah at 10:41 PM on February 22, 2007

I don't think we can post about the total destruction of a planet without linking to this.

Interesting Sagan link in post too, btw.
posted by mazola at 10:53 PM on February 22, 2007

I think we could be confident that it's been done before.
posted by nervousfritz at 11:01 PM on February 22, 2007

Oh, and [good post].
posted by mazola at 11:18 PM on February 22, 2007

There is a theory that states that a negatively charged strangelet on earth would continue to digest all of the matter it came into contact with until the earth itself was entirely strange. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
posted by lostburner at 11:34 PM on February 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

don't be too proud of this technological terror you've created; the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the force
posted by keswick at 11:39 PM on February 22, 2007

Allow me to be the first to say it.

We have the technology. The time is now. Children are our future. America can, should, must, and will blow up the moon!

(Little girl holding drawing, pointing things out) "This is a picture of the moon blowing up, and this is me smiling!"

(Thank you, Mr. Show.)
posted by JHarris at 11:48 PM on February 22, 2007

Oh, and the information in the Carl Sagan link makes it clear to me that, one day, the United States will accidentally destroy the world, and no one will see it coming because it'll be part of a goddamn classified program.
posted by JHarris at 11:52 PM on February 22, 2007

Bronson Alpha — When Worlds Collide (1951) [images].
Gort — The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
Preemptive logic — The Killing Star (1995).
posted by cenoxo at 12:12 AM on February 23, 2007

I was going to do the thing with the coffee can, but they don't have coffee cans in South Africa.

Fantastic post! I love this sort of thing.

As for the universe: How do you think the universe was made in the first place? Some geek in the old one was screwing around with some gizmo, and turned a screw too tight.

posted by Goofyy at 12:42 AM on February 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh, and hafnium bombs — from the March 28, 2004 Washington Post, Scary Things Come in Small Packages:
One ounce of hafnium-178 stores enough energy to boil 120 tons of water. One tankful of it could fuel a car on a trip around Earth 520 times. And, most to the point, one gram of the material would have up to 50,000 times the explosive power of a gram of TNT.
posted by cenoxo at 12:49 AM on February 23, 2007

man. LHC commissioning. scary stuff.

on the one hand i don't envy the dudes who are going to be involved when it starts. on the other hand it sounds kinda fun.

the LHC really pushes the proton synchrotron into uncharted territory. i've just spent a few minutes looking at the design report and a few things jump out. the high energy means that synchrotron radiation will be non-negligible, which is going to totally confound people used to working with proton rings. the high luminosity and bunch currents mean the collider will be very sensitive to instabilities, particularly when the beams are in collision.

but what most boggles my mind is the sheer scale of the venture. there are so many components here - thousands of magnets, cryogenics, rf systems, vacuum systems. if any one of these many thousands of components goes offline, the beam will dump. and they will go offline; these things are measured in mean time to failure, which might be months or years.. but with so many things that can fail, all of them critical, it's going to happen a lot.

at some point in the near future, accelerator design is going to have to shift to a more fault-tolerant approach, where the loss of a power supply here or there doesn't mean losing an hour to ramp everything down and start over.

anyway. like i said, i both do and don't envy those guys. the LHC is really an incredible thing, on par with putting a man on the moon. it would be cool to say 'i was there'.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:46 AM on February 23, 2007

I blow up the earth by using my scroll wheel on google maps.
posted by srboisvert at 4:04 AM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Although he believes the blast would have had little environmental impact on Earth, its crater may have ruined the face of the 'man in the moon'.

dEaR eaRhT PeoPlE

bOsTon WaS JuST a wArNiNG. Do nOt MeSs wiTh YoUr MoOninItE OveRLoRdS.

-- PrEsiDeNt oF MoOninItEs

pS wE wAnT brItNeY's HaIR fOr a PiZzA
posted by pyramid termite at 5:31 AM on February 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

srboisvert, I prefer to think of it as parachute failure.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:31 AM on February 23, 2007

"I don't know how you can say that. Although I will admit that the possibility of a resonance cascade scenario is extremely unlikely, I remain uncomfortable with the---"

Gordon doesn't need to hear this. He's a highly trained professional. We have assured the Administrator that nothing will go wrong.

Ah, strangelets. You'll all be sorry when aliens start teleporting themselves all over the place. Just be sure to stock a heavy crowbar.

posted by mr_book at 5:52 AM on February 23, 2007

"Number of plans currently in progress with the final aim of bringing about the Earth's destruction: 0"

That's what he thinks...
posted by Cyrano at 6:49 AM on February 23, 2007

don't tempt me,
posted by edgeways at 7:05 AM on February 23, 2007

Just be sure to stock a heavy crowbar.

Or your basic anti-zombie shotgun with attached sharpened pipe bayonet.
posted by IronLizard at 7:09 AM on February 23, 2007

Will we have time to say "I told you so"?
posted by Drexen at 7:09 AM on February 23, 2007

sergeant sandwich said: ...the LHC...what most boggles my mind is the sheer scale of the venture.

BBC News In Pictures — The Large Hadron Collider (love their statue of ShivaWP.)

More LHC images and videos from the Cern Document Server. GV has a recent walk-through.
posted by cenoxo at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2007

Here is their report on the chance of destroying the universe [pdf], which, on page 5, concludes “the worst-case scenario cannot be excluded based on these data alone.".

Am I nutty for finding that really scary?

If the scientists at CERN are admitting that they might possibly accidentally destroy everything, why isn't there more negative public sentiment about these experiments in general? Surely their test results are only really meaningful to most people if they're large-scale cataclysm.
posted by zebra3 at 9:02 AM on February 23, 2007

IANAPhysicist, but I dabble because I find it interesting. I have to say that this scares the living shit out of me. They can point to numbers all they like about how unlikely this scenario is, but there are all kinds of variables and it only takes one of those to change slightly to literally change the Earth into a glowing ball of heat in a matter of weeks (worse case scenario - eleven minutes).

I also do not know why this isn't getting more press. Maybe it is because physics tends to cause others' eyes to glaze over or that it isn't sexy enough (what's sexier and more headline grabbing than 'Destrustion of the Earth Imminent!)

yeah... scares the shit out of me.
posted by WhipSmart at 11:11 AM on February 23, 2007

Well, did you look at the report? The abstract says "We find no basis for any conceivable threat."

That might be why it doesn't get more press.
posted by nat at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2007

Oh, I should add.. the "these data alone" refers specifically and solely to data from cosmic rays.

Data from RHIC and from astrophysical observations, however, add up to "no basis for any conceivable threat".

Please be careful about taking statements out of context.
posted by nat at 12:59 PM on February 23, 2007

nat, maybe you should read all of the links... particularly the one calling the report you point to saying there is 'no basis for any conceivable threat' total bullshit.

Plus, the BNL report lays out exactly what could happen and tries to blow it off, but isn't able to.
posted by WhipSmart at 2:28 PM on February 23, 2007

The tricky thing about blowing up the moon is that you have to wait until a full moon to make sure you get all of it.
posted by JackFlash at 3:58 PM on February 23, 2007

alright. i was all set to come in here and be nice, but dammit, there's a difference between dabbling in something and doing it for a living.

on the one hand you have the informed opinion of six professional particle physicists with at least 160 peer-reviewed articles published in scholarly journals between them (not to mention a number of books), as informed by, y'know, actual science and equations and shit.

on the other hand, you have the opinion of a mechanical software engineer who is, quite frankly, so badly afflicted with engineer's disease that it ain't funny; and who is apparently carrying on the bizarre obsession of his (dad? brother?), Dr. Walter L. Wagner of that highly esteemed institution of physical science, the World Botanical Gardens in Hawaii. Dr. Wagner's lawsuit to shut down the RHIC was thrown out of court, and i guess he's moved on to other ridiculous, paranoid shit-stirring.

or do you, whipsmart, have your own personal insight into the physics at hand that you're willing to share? what do you mean by "isn't able to"?
posted by sergeant sandwich at 5:48 PM on February 23, 2007

For the record, I just posted the "LHC/RHIC will kill us all" links because it fit the theme of destroying the world. One of my good friends' fathers was one of the leading scientists behind RHIC and was furious at the additional costs associated with Wagner's publicity. And, as for halfnium, you may want to see my old post with that who sordid story.

Besides, the real thing to worry about are those damn Drej motherships.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:42 PM on February 23, 2007

no need to fear strangelets, this is all part of the cycle of the universe, which started 13.7 billion years ago in a hot, dense ball of quark-gluon plasma and will end the same way, with a new universe a-borning. each universe keeps going until some species somewhere develops the means to do this, and aren't you proud that you're that species, and that you may well live (for a short time thereafter) to see it.
posted by bruce at 10:43 PM on February 23, 2007

or do you, whipsmart, have your own personal insight into the physics at hand that you're willing to share? what do you mean by "isn't able to"?

You're mistaking the nature of the issue. Here, let me make a proposal.

Do you have a child? I would like to give him or her an unloaded firearm for a short period of time. My associates and I will extract some data from the experience that will greatly assist us in our various fields. You don't know any of them or understand what they're doing, but I assure you that giving your kid a gun will really help move our research along. Also, you don't get to see who checks the gun for safety purposes, but rest assured we all have certificates in our fields. You must understand that research takes place in a sealed facility for various reasons and you will not be allowed near your child while he or she is waving the almost-definitely-completely-unloaded gun around.

A fake gun won't work, by the way. We've already done plenty of research on the psychology/semiotics of waving fake guns around. A real gun is the next logical step.

So you should ignore some crackpot talking about how a trained firearms handler might still sign of on a gun that can do harm. Besides, your kid isn't going to point it at himself, is he/she? Not that you'll get to be there or anything. We can't *rule out* the possibility that your son or daughter will shoot him/herself in the face.

Therefore, you would be crazy, superstitious and against human progress if you objected.
posted by mobunited at 1:44 AM on February 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Something about all of this just fascinates the living shit out of me. And the non-living shit, too.

I guess it's why one of my fave sites to visit in the company of paranoid hypochondriac would be Exit Mundi.

It doesn't scare me, however. I'm more frightened of... say, half the world going missing. But the whole world? Meh. Doesn't seem so bad. Especially w/that whole "11 minutes" thing. I don't wanna jinx it but.. setting aside how terrible that would be - wouldn't it also be kind of exciting to look around and go "wow... 11 minutes and counting until we have no more of any of this." ?
posted by revmitcz at 2:18 AM on February 24, 2007

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