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Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at The Ohio State University, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of "Your Place in the Universe" (2018). Sutter contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Mad scientists through the ages have dreamed of holding the world hostage by threatening to destroy the whole thing, demanding riches, power and fame, and respect from their peers. But if you're going to play this game yourself, you'd better do it right — and doing it right means doing your homework.
Snake - Suburb - Number - Hitchhikers
A snake in an Australian suburb was carrying an astonishing number of parasitic hitchhikers.
So let's be serious. If you want to destroy the planet, you have to really aim to destroy the actual planet.
Planet - Gravity - Onion - Gravity - Innermost
Our planet is held together by its own gravity. You can think of it like a massive, rocky onion. The gravity of the innermost core holds the next layer onto it. Then their combined gravitational attraction keeps the next layer glued. Then their total weight grips the next layer. I think you get the idea, but this process repeats until the entire might of the Earth — all 5.972 x 10^24 kilograms of it — holds you to your seat and attracts a thin atmosphere to top it all off.
So if you want to blow up the Earth, you need to unpeel that onion, one layer at a time. You need to send every layer, every chunk of rock and speck of dirt and shovelful of molten magma into space. And not just into space temporarily — you need to make sure that stuff completely escapes the gravitational pull of the (remaining) Earth for all eternity.
Words - Parts - Earth - Velocity - Feat
In other words, you need to accelerate all the parts of the Earth to escape velocity. That's no easy feat: We typically...
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