The Apocalypse, Averted by a Thought Experiment

I feel it is my sorta-sacred duty to check out the most useful and awe-inspiring corners of the websphere.

So when my son told me about a website where real math and real science are used to calculate things like the relative force-wattage outputs of Yoda, the Emperor, and Luke Skywalker, I had to check it out.

It is called what-if.xkcd.com and it is precisely as awesome as it sounds. Not only informative, but funny, packed with gems like: The Earth rotates[citation needed], as well as excellent line-drawing art.

whatif1

Go immediately and find the answers to all your burning questions, such as:

  • If the earth was a bowling ball, how big would the finger holes be?
  • How likely is a robot apocalypse?
  • If you went outside and lay down on your back with your mouth open, how long would you have to wait until a bird pooped in it?
  • How massive would a mole of actual moles be?

I learned many things, including the fact that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gets the following question so often that the government has issued a formal statement on the subject: Could you detonate a nuclear weapon in the eye of a hurricane to dissipate its force?

Luckily, the answer is a resounding no. So Floridians, stop trolling the internet for uranium.

My favorite, however, is the answer to a question that has plagued me since I was scraping the filling out of my Oreos with the only four teeth I owned.

What would happen if all the people on earth stood in one place and jumped at the same time?

As it turns out, we all fit in the state of Rhode Island. But alas, our combined jumping has no effect on the earth, because it outweighs us by a factor of ten trillion. However, the earth’s infrastructure collapses because everyone who should be maintaining it is in Rhode Island. The escaping masses are in chaos. Social hierarchies are upturned. Looting and violence are the order of the day and within weeks, Rhode Island is a graveyard for billions.

So now we know. Bad idea[citation needed].

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