What-If 0015: "Mariana Trench Explosion"

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Vroomfundel
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What-If 0015: "Mariana Trench Explosion"

Postby Vroomfundel » Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:20 am UTC

http://what-if.xkcd.com/15/

These delays with the what-if enable us Europelings to score a frist occasionally ;-)
I just love speculation about nuclear devices, so many options! No pictures though :-(
Last edited by Vroomfundel on Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:31 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby rhomboidal » Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:24 am UTC

First Schrodinger's and now this one? Cats and small-scale reactions seem to be a formula for creating life-and-death quandaries.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby diskoerekto » Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:45 am UTC

Sadly, I cannot see the images on this episode of what-if. Does anybody else experience the same problem?

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Dwalla » Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:51 am UTC

You're not alone; I can't see the images either.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:56 am UTC

Same here.
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby standingwave » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:10 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Same here.
I just get some descriptive text ('a man in a hat holds up a cat') in lieu of the images, which is rather daring for a comic strip.


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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby cybersmurf » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:17 am UTC

Yeah, I'm getting 404s too, as should everybody else. Maybe upload error? Or no upload?

Vroomfundel
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Vroomfundel » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:17 am UTC

What, you can't picture a stick figure cat walking on a keyboard? I thought we're only seasoned xkcd appreciators here :-)
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby standingwave » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:28 am UTC

Vroomfundel wrote:What, you can't picture a stick figure cat walking on a keyboard? I thought we're only seasoned xkcd appreciators here :-)
It's very avant-garde. XKCD has finally escaped the constraints of its medium. 954: Man in hat jams top of escalator with chin-up bar.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby CleverDick » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:39 am UTC

It's happened, guys. Randall's gone and married a Japanese conceptual artist.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Kükenschublade » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:58 am UTC

The image issue is fixed as of now.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Angelastic » Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:34 am UTC

And now we have pictures! I think I like the ocean zero one the best.
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Max™ » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:38 pm UTC

Spoiler:
Image

Baker was interesting to look at.
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby VectorZero » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:59 pm UTC

But Randall,

What if we tried more power?
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Vroomfundel » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:32 pm UTC

Max™ wrote:
Spoiler:
Image

Baker was interesting to look at.


I can never get enough of nuclear explosions, although I've probably seen all archive footage available.
"Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie" contains most of it, I guess http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114728/

My inaugural blog post was on that topic too:
http://deathasingularityornothing.blogspot.com/2010/04/madness-of-nuclear-disarmament.html
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby AvatarIII » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:36 pm UTC

VectorZero wrote:But Randall,

What if we tried more power?


You want more than 53,000 gigatonnes of TNT equivalent?

ok then.

Image

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby niky » Tue Oct 09, 2012 2:12 pm UTC

You kind of figure that a nuclear bomb isn't going to do much that deep under.

Heck, that's the standard trope for any runaway nuclear explosion: "Fly/drop/throw it into the ocean!"

Next week: "What if we tried to launch a spaceship using carbonated beverages?"

I'm pretty sure the answer would include "more power" somewhere... :mrgreen:

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Tormuse » Tue Oct 09, 2012 2:45 pm UTC

niky wrote:You kind of figure that a nuclear bomb isn't going to do much that deep under.

Heck, that's the standard trope for any runaway nuclear explosion: "Fly/drop/throw it into the ocean!"


Just make sure your plane has an auto-pilot. ;)
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby nmp303 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 2:46 pm UTC

There's two things that I believe should have received more attention:
  • What is the difference between the explosion taking place on the ocean floor versus far enough above the ocean floor that only water is caught in the blast?
  • How will the explosion and resulting "mass of turbulent warm water and explosion debris" affect marine life?

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby AvatarIII » Tue Oct 09, 2012 3:14 pm UTC

niky wrote:You kind of figure that a nuclear bomb isn't going to do much that deep under.

Heck, that's the standard trope for any runaway nuclear explosion: "Fly/drop/throw it into the ocean!"

Next week: "What if we tried to launch a spaceship using carbonated beverages?"

I'm pretty sure the answer would include "more power" somewhere... :mrgreen:


how much mentos and diet coke would it take to launch a human into orbit?

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby ShuRugal » Tue Oct 09, 2012 3:22 pm UTC

nmp303 wrote:There's two things that I believe should have received more attention:
  • What is the difference between the explosion taking place on the ocean floor versus far enough above the ocean floor that only water is caught in the blast?
  • How will the explosion and resulting "mass of turbulent warm water and explosion debris" affect marine life?



which explosion? the 53 megaton one, or the chicxulub one? the latter could not be elevated high enough to avoid including the ocean floor within its radius.

AvatarIII wrote:how much mentos and diet coke would it take to launch a human into orbit?



add in a fifth of tequila, and just one.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby wommbatt » Tue Oct 09, 2012 3:36 pm UTC

what i'd like to know here continues after this final bigass kaboom. what would happen to the earth itself? sure all life would be over, but how would the planet itself shape up after a few million years or what have you?

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby DaveMcW » Tue Oct 09, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

niky wrote:Next week: "What if we tried to launch a spaceship using carbonated beverages?"

Randall explained how to calculate that in What-if 0007.

Fuel-to-ship ratio = e^(vescape/vexhaust)

Assuming 100m/s exhaust velocity for the beverage, and 1 ton for the spaceship, we get e^(13/0.1) = 2.8 x 10^56 tons of carbonated beverage.

But 10^56 tons of beverage would collapse into a black hole, preventing the spaceship from launching after all.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby The22ndDoctor » Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:09 pm UTC

I can't help wondering why the Challenger Deep Door from 1040 wasn't mentioned. Is it indestructible? Or is this how we are getting the nuke under the surface for the follow up? Will the blast permanently seal it, making James Cameron's Brain the target of think tanks everywhere?

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby JJH » Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:14 pm UTC

Well that was... predictable. Nuke the Mariana trench and get no effect. “Well that didn’t work.” Supersize it and get a Mythbusters level destruction.

What I’m more interested in is the Freeman Dyson memo that Randall mentions, it looks like it would make an interesting read.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby PolakoVoador » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:08 pm UTC

JJH wrote:Well that was... predictable. Nuke the Mariana trench and get no effect. “Well that didn’t work.” Supersize it and get a Mythbusters level destruction.

What I’m more interested in is the Freeman Dyson memo that Randall mentions, it looks like it would make an interesting read.


I don't think Mythbusters ever got to this level of destruction

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby keithl » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:26 pm UTC

This came up the other day in a discussion of the power loop. I mentioned it in an interview for Next Big Future last week.

One of the first uses of launch loop technology won't be launch, but energy storage, load-leveling on a 24 hour cycle and sharing power between the US and China. Assuming small variations in the spot market price (driven by intermittent alternative generation methods) a power loop can pay for itself in less than a year. The best place to build the largest storage systems is a few hundred meters deep along the outer continental shelf. That way, if a power loop breaks (one of many) we can dispose of the high speed rotor by making steam and rust, without threatening people. We will purposely dump the rotor in a few places, far away from concentrations of ocean life (much of the ocean is more lifeless than the most hostile mineral desert).

But rather than load leveling the power grid for a day, let's assume we are load leveling the entire energy usage of the planet for a year. Assume 10kW total energy usage (US levels) for 10 billion people, 100 terawatts. A year is 8766 hours. So assume we are storing 876.6 petawatt-hours, or 3.16E21 joules. The circulation time for the energy in the loop is about an hour.

We would have to be insane to release all that energy at once :twisted:

A megaton of explosive is 4.184E15 J, so that is 754,000 MT . Not Chixulub scale, but a lot bigger than the Tsar Bombe. Scaling from Randall's equation (the units don't match), we get a bubble 24 times bigger, a radius of 14 kilometers. That will certainly break the surface (and probably the ocean floor). The energy is 1500 times the Tohoku earthquake, and 750 times the Mt. Tambora explosion, which caused the "year without a summer". If this happened in the Marianas Trench, the tsunami would inundate coastal Asia and probably the entire west coast of the americas. Surf's up!

It would make things very difficult for a year, but it would not wipe out life on earth or even human civilization.

So, don't store that much energy, not in one loop, and make sure unplanned releases are spread out over time and area. A real power loop failure will result in multiple controlled rotor releases into many emergency dump zones, and there will be hundreds of loops storing about a megaton-equivalent each, so the effects of losing one will be a financial disaster but not a loss-of-life (human or natural) disaster.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby NoodleIncident » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:35 pm UTC

Tormuse wrote:
niky wrote:You kind of figure that a nuclear bomb isn't going to do much that deep under.

Heck, that's the standard trope for any runaway nuclear explosion: "Fly/drop/throw it into the ocean!"


Just make sure your plane has an auto-pilot. ;)

HISE what you did there. :)



I can't tell whether Randall's trend of applying the Mythbusters flow chart to these What Ifs is a good thing or a bad thing. It seems to work less well without video evidence of the destruction.
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Max™ » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:38 pm UTC

JJH wrote:Well that was... predictable. Nuke the Mariana trench and get no effect. “Well that didn’t work.” Supersize it and get a Mythbusters level destruction.

What I’m more interested in is the Freeman Dyson memo that Randall mentions, it looks like it would make an interesting read.

Image

Casaba-Howitzer

According to Freeman's model, something originally in the shape of a cigar expands into the shape of a pancake, and something originally in the shape of a pancake expands into the shape of a cigar. This was "very directly relevant to the expansion of a bomb," he explains. "If you have something that starts in the form of a pancake and you heat it up to a very high temperature it will expand more sideways along the axis, and less at the edges. The pressure gradient is highest along the axis, so then after a while, since the velocity is highest along the axis, it becomes cigar-shaped. So you get inversion, something that begins like a pan­cake becomes like a cigar, and something that begins as a cigar becomes a pancake, if you just let it expand freely. It goes roughly with the square root, if you start with a pancake where the ratio of the diameter to thick­ness is ten, then it will end up as a cigar where the ratio of the length to the diameter is square root of ten, roughly speaking. That would be quite helpful, of course, if you had a real Orion, to start out with a pan­cake and it will produce then a jet that is collimated within 20 degrees or so quite nicely. The fact that it's so easy to make an asymmetrical explosion may still be classified, for all I know."
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby bmonk » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:50 pm UTC

Color me disappointed. Up until the stupid cat entered, I was thinking, "Cool. This What-If reverses the trope, by starting with a big old explosion, and ending with a fizzle." But, Noooooo! He had to go and explode the oceans, and end life as we know it.
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Judah » Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:58 pm UTC

The attempts at humor are getting lame now. "The answer to your question is that nothing would happen. But. I can make up an equation which would give me a more interesting answer." Yay.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Mikeski » Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:07 am UTC

niky wrote:Next week: "What if we tried to launch a spaceship using carbonated beverages?"


That was answered in Wandaba Style, in an attempt to allow a Japanese idol group to have a concert on the moon.

(I am unsure exactly which drugs, and how much of each, were required for this show to exist.)

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Himself » Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:28 am UTC

wommbatt wrote:what i'd like to know here continues after this final bigass kaboom. what would happen to the earth itself? sure all life would be over, but how would the planet itself shape up after a few million years or what have you?

I don't think it would end all life, but there could possibly be a mass extinction event. From what I could find Randall is right in saying the larger explosion would be on the same order of magnitude as the Chicxulub impact.
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby ijuin » Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:31 am UTC

DaveMcW wrote:
niky wrote:Next week: "What if we tried to launch a spaceship using carbonated beverages?"

Randall explained how to calculate that in What-if 0007.

Fuel-to-ship ratio = e^(vescape/vexhaust)

Assuming 100m/s exhaust velocity for the beverage, and 1 ton for the spaceship, we get e^(13/0.1) = 2.8 x 10^56 tons of carbonated beverage.

But 10^56 tons of beverage would collapse into a black hole, preventing the spaceship from launching after all.

Note that this is about eighty thousand times the estimated mass of the observable universe according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_of_th ... verse#Mass .
However, if we increase the gas pressure until the beverage is a supercritical fluid we may be able to get the exhaust velocity close to the speed of sound (so perhaps 250 m/s).

The idea of launching a spacecraft using carbonated beverage reminds me of a 12 episode anime from a few years back called "Wandaba Style", where teenaged Dr. Tsukumo was attempting to launch a lunar mission explicitly WITHOUT the use of combustion or nuclear propulsion (he's an environmentalist and doesn't want to pollute). In Episode 2, he builds a giant three-stage "water rocket" using slightly less than one million tonnes of carbonated water as propellant. In true cartoon fashion, it ALMOST works, but falls short due to his crew (four young women) understating their body weight (and thus him underestimating the vehicle payload and fuel requirement).

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby AUS » Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:41 am UTC

I'm calling bullshit on this one. Not that what he said wouldn't happen, but on that it didn't talk about the massive shockwave (which travels quicker through the water than the air) killing everything it touches. I want to know how much damage that does.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Yosarian2 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:30 am UTC

Man. I got about 2/3ds of the way through this one and I was really hoping we would get through *one* what-if without destroying the world. Oh well. :lol:

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:34 am UTC

Yosarian2 wrote:Man. I got about 2/3ds of the way through this one and I was really hoping we would get through *one* what-if without destroying the world. Oh well. :lol:

Glass half-empty.

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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby Red Hal » Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:41 am UTC

Which half?
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Re: What-if 0015: Mariana Trench Explosion

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:13 am UTC

Either way, it doesn't end the world, nor even have a significant death-toll. A glass gets shattered, some water gets sprayed around, and some observers get mostly superficial injuries from flying/falling glass. It's possible that someone might be blinded, or need significant medical attention, but I'd expect standard first aid to be sufficient most of the time.

See also the robot apocalypse and SAT guessing...


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