What-If 0023: "Short Answer Section II"

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nowhereman
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What-If 0023: "Short Answer Section II"

Postby nowhereman » Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:34 am UTC

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

"If my printer could literally print out money, would it have that big an effect on the world?"

"What would happen if you exploded a nuclear bomb in the eye of a hurricane? Would the storm cell be immediately vaporized?"

"If everyone put little turbine generators on the downspouts of their houses and businesses, how much power would we generate? Would we ever generate enough power to offset the cost of the generators?"

"Using only pronounceable letter combinations, how long would names have to be to give each star in the universe a unique one word name?"

"I bike to class sometimes. It's annoying biking in the wintertime, because it's so cold. How fast would I have to bike for my skin to warm up the way a spacecraft heats up during reentry?"

"How much physical space does the internet take up?"

"What if you strapped C4 to a boomerang? Could this be an effective weapon, or would it be as stupid as it sounds?"

First, I was surprised to find out that the internet was that small. Then again if I was doing the estimating, I would include the servers used to run the internet (and what the heck, power supplies and cooling). Second, I was not at all surprised to find out that prnting money would have a negligible effect on the economy. Finally, I was really surprised to find out someone asked about C-4 on a boomerang. That just seems patently stupid. Like Youtube stupid.

BANGARANG MOTHER#&$^@!!!

Edit: Upon further reflection, I would like a boomerang C-4 weapon, just so I could overuse that line. Anyone want to make a kick starter for this movie idea?
Last edited by nowhereman on Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:37 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Angelastic » Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:35 am UTC

I'm surprised they didn't print 1000-Swiss-franc bills.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby rhomboidal » Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:58 am UTC

I also like the idea of somehow putting the "boom" in boomerang, but instead of using C-4, by breaking Mach 1 with one using micro-rockets. Or Cy Young-winning pitchers.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby dalcde » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:21 am UTC

Since there are 7.8 billion $100 bills in circulation, and the lifetime of a $100 bill is about 90 months, that means there are about a billion produced each year. Your extra two million bills a year would barely be enough to notice.


I thought it was 200 million?

200 million/1 billion = 20%

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby McBee » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:22 am UTC

A C4 boomerang would be great! :P
To be more precise, a boomerang-shaped C4 package with a hard shell (made of something light that shrapnels well), with a remote detonation switch worn on the thrower's wrist.
Point, throw, pop if in the desired vicinity of target, or try again if not. :twisted:

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:36 am UTC

dalcde wrote:
Since there are 7.8 billion $100 bills in circulation, and the lifetime of a $100 bill is about 90 months, that means there are about a billion produced each year. Your extra two million bills a year would barely be enough to notice.


I thought it was 200 million?

200 million/1 billion = 20%


$200 million, or 2 million $100 bills.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby dudiobugtron » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:53 am UTC

Angelastic wrote:I'm surprised they didn't print 1000-Swiss-franc bills.

Yeah I thought $100US was an odd choice!

Why bother with $100, when you could print some of these guys?
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Demki » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:08 pm UTC

Why not make the boomerang out of C4? That way you reserve aerodynamics and have a high explosive flying back at you after you throw it.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Red Hal » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:13 pm UTC

Remote detonation.
  • Arm bangarang
  • Throw bangarang at target
  • When bangarang is close to target, depress remote trigger
  • Boom

Timed fuse
  • Estimate time of flight to target
  • Arm bangarang
  • Wait until timer counts down to time-of-flight
  • Throw
  • ??????????
  • Boom

Edit: The timed fuse is effectively a really low-budget version of the XM25/XM104 combo.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Reecer6 » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:55 pm UTC

But what if we used more power? Then our boomerangs might not be able to be thrown, much less blow us up!
...What if we used more boomerangs?

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby pkcommando » Tue Dec 04, 2012 6:08 pm UTC

The important question is - When will Zelda games give you this option instead of bomb arrows?

And don't give me any of that crap about targeting bomb flowers and then your objective. That's totally different.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby mathmannix » Tue Dec 04, 2012 6:11 pm UTC

OK, I did a bit of research. Please let me know if you see any mistakes in my math or logic, or can find better deals.

I figured I need a photo-quality printer, such as this one for $180. It claims to print 14 pages per minute in color.

It requires the color ink cartridge CLI-36, which go for $18.99 each.

According to this website, one cartridge will last for 249 pages, but this is based on an average of 5% coverage of the page. A standard sheet of paper is 8.5 in. x 11 in. = 93.5 in.^2. Four 6.14 in. x 2.61 in. bills together have an area of 64.1016 in.^2, which is 68.558 % coverage, or 13.71 times 5%. So, I expect my printer cartridge to only last for (249 / 13.71) = 18 pages (truncated), or 9 pages double-sided.

Now, while I wanted a top-quality photo printer and color ink, I don't think I need high quality paper. (Dollar bills shouldn't be glossy, after all.) So, I will skimp on paper, and get 2500 sheets of paper for $22.98.

Now, the printer claims 14 pages per minute in color, but that's only one-sided, so really I can print (at most) 7 double-sided pages per minute. But every time I complete 9 pages (every 1 minute, 17.14 seconds or so), I have to change the ink cartridge, which probably takes a minute or two (especially if I run the test page). And then I have to take breaks to eat, etc. and can't always be there to rip open the boxes of cartridges or paper, and change them. So, I'm just going to simplify and go with Randall's 1-page-per-minute (on average) idea. Fine, so that way every nine minutes I start a new ink cartridge, and every 2500 pages I start a new box of paper. (I'm going to assume the printer keeps working through the year, but the $200 cost of a new printer is not going to be much next to the cost of ink, I can already tell!)

So, there are 525,600 minutes in a year (or in 365 days, anyway.) I'm going to round down to 525,000 pages. (I took ten hours off in the year!) This amounts to 58,334 (rounding up) ink cartridges - assuming I don't get a bulk rate (!!), that's $1,107,762.66 in ink in a year. I will need 210 boxes of paper, for an additional $4,825.80. Add the (one?) printer, and that's a total annual cost of $1,112,768.46.

Our gross income for the year is 525000 * 4 = 2.1 million times whatever denomination bill we are printing. If $100-bills, then $210 million. If $1-bills, then $2.1 million.

But, if we print $100 bills, we will almost certainly get caught right away when we try to spend them. Your tiny, street-vendor-type businesses won't take them at all. Even small business that take them will probably look for the tiny hologram, or magnetic strip, or use the brown marker, or whatever. Large businesses like Wal-mart or Best Buy will definitely do that. And banks will have you recorded, so you will be arrested.

Even $20-bills are unlikely to escape fraud detection; I've had many of these get the "brown marker" test. Also, people will probably notice if you have all the same serial numbers, but let's say you have a computer program written that creates different, random, non-sequential, but valid-ish serial numbers on each bill.

This is why it's best to counterfeit smaller denominations - 5's or 10's. (Or so I've heard...) 1's generally aren't worth it, but they are next to undetectable if you spend them correctly. So, to be safe, let's say I make all $10 bills, and get rid of them (in the following year) by asking hot dog vendors, comic-book stores, and bartenders for change across the country. In a year, I will make $21 million in fake currency, at a cost of $1.1 million or so. The catch, of course, is I have to have the $1.1 million up front. It's a very large start-up cost. But, I make almost $20 million in profit over two years.

This, I could live on.

Edit: for those over at Treasury, I am joking of course. Ha ha. I would never actually do anything like this!
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby MahouShoujoMaruin » Tue Dec 04, 2012 6:54 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:OK, I did a bit of research. Please let me know if you see any mistakes in my math or logic, or can find better deals.

I figured I need a photo-quality printer, such as this one for $180. It claims to print 14 pages per minute in color.

It requires the color ink cartridge CLI-36, which go for $18.99 each.

According to this website, one cartridge will last for 249 pages, but this is based on an average of 5% coverage of the page. A standard sheet of paper is 8.5 in. x 11 in. = 93.5 in.^2. Four 6.14 in. x 2.61 in. bills together have an area of 64.1016 in.^2, which is 68.558 % coverage, or 13.71 times 5%. So, I expect my printer cartridge to only last for (249 / 13.71) = 18 pages (truncated), or 9 pages double-sided.

Now, while I wanted a top-quality photo printer and color ink, I don't think I need high quality paper. (Dollar bills shouldn't be glossy, after all.) So, I will skimp on paper, and get 2500 sheets of paper for $22.98.

Now, the printer claims 14 pages per minute in color, but that's only one-sided, so really I can print (at most) 7 double-sided pages per minute. But every time I complete 9 pages (every 1 minute, 17.14 seconds or so), I have to change the ink cartridge, which probably takes a minute or two (especially if I run the test page). And then I have to take breaks to eat, etc. and can't always be there to rip open the boxes of cartridges or paper, and change them. So, I'm just going to simplify and go with Randall's 1-page-per-minute (on average) idea. Fine, so that way every nine minutes I start a new ink cartridge, and every 2500 pages I start a new box of paper. (I'm going to assume the printer keeps working through the year, but the $200 cost of a new printer is not going to be much next to the cost of ink, I can already tell!)

So, there are 525,600 minutes in a year (or in 365 days, anyway.) I'm going to round down to 525,000 pages. (I took ten hours off in the year!) This amounts to 58,334 (rounding up) ink cartridges - assuming I don't get a bulk rate (!!), that's $1,107,762.66 in ink in a year. I will need 210 boxes of paper, for an additional $4,825.80. Add the (one?) printer, and that's a total annual cost of $1,112,768.46.

Our gross income for the year is 525000 * 4 = 2.1 million times whatever denomination bill we are printing. If $100-bills, then $210 million. If $1-bills, then $2.1 million.

But, if we print $100 bills, we will almost certainly get caught right away when we try to spend them. Your tiny, street-vendor-type businesses won't take them at all. Even small business that take them will probably look for the tiny hologram, or magnetic strip, or use the brown marker, or whatever. Large businesses like Wal-mart or Best Buy will definitely do that. And banks will have you recorded, so you will be arrested.

Even $20-bills are unlikely to escape fraud detection; I've had many of these get the "brown marker" test. Also, people will probably notice if you have all the same serial numbers, but let's say you have a computer program written that creates different, random, non-sequential, but valid-ish serial numbers on each bill.

This is why it's best to counterfeit smaller denominations - 5's or 10's. (Or so I've heard...) 1's generally aren't worth it, but they are next to undetectable if you spend them correctly. So, to be safe, let's say I make all $10 bills, and get rid of them (in the following year) by asking hot dog vendors, comic-book stores, and bartenders for change across the country. In a year, I will make $21 million in fake currency, at a cost of $1.1 million or so. The catch, of course, is I have to have the $1.1 million up front. It's a very large start-up cost. But, I make almost $20 million in profit over two years.

This, I could live on.

Edit: for those over at Treasury, I am joking of course. Ha ha. I would never actually do anything like this!


If you actually aim to spend these and get away with it, you'd probably invest in the best qualit/most like real money paper you could find. Not glossy photopaper, true, but not the cheapest printing paper either. If you could find some paper with textiles in it, it would be a lot better. Then it would be worth while to invest in the best printer possible, which would probably be a lot more than 200 dollar. You should probably also find some way to wear the money before you use them. Some machines that moves the money around and pushes it against some rough surface or something, so the bills look old and worn. This will help reduce the chance of detection. There would still be a chance of detection though, and once you get caught, it's probably game over, so you need to take that into account. I'm not sure how to get a good estimate for the probability to get caught though. Then there is opportunity cost. If you are a smart guy and willing to work hard(as you would, to print money non-stop without break), you could probably make around 100k dollar a year, so you need to take that into account as well.

When you get down to it, it's probably not a smart choice. Crime actually usually doesn't pay, unless you are a rich CEO or something.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby dudiobugtron » Tue Dec 04, 2012 7:18 pm UTC

^ Also, you didn't factor in the cost of rent. ;)
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby mathmannix » Tue Dec 04, 2012 7:21 pm UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:^ Also, you didn't factor in the cost of rent. ;)


What, tickets to the musical? Or should I just buy the movie version? Or rent it from Redbox, for $1...
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Dec 04, 2012 7:42 pm UTC

Reecer6 wrote:But what if we used more power? Then our boomerangs might not be able to be thrown, much less blow us up!
...What if we used more boomerangs?

I think that comic-generator based on 445 and 475 needs a custom update based on this what-if...
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby keithl » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:30 pm UTC

If the generator rig cost $100, residents of the rainiest place in the US—Ketchikan, Alaska—could potentially offset the cost in under a century.


... uh, no. Because Ketchikan (and Sitka) are the rainiest places in the US, next to high mountains, the hydropower there is damned cheap. Not 15 cents/kwhr, but 9.4 cents/kwhr. Here are the rates for Ketchikan and Sitka. These panhandle rates could be far cheaper elsewhere, but maintaining an electric system in Alaska is challenging and expensive, like everything else in Alaska.

And don't forget energy storage. Unless you are frobbing the grid by pushing power back into it (politically popular, technologically nasty) you must store energy to average out the power. Even in Alaska, the rain is not continuous, and certainly not a smooth drizzle when it does rain. The inexpensive bulk hydro, the energy storage problem, and the need to replace batteries in the storage system says "no way" to small scale power like this, when the grid is available.

If you need to do hydro (like my friend in a remote part of Washington State), find a steep "valley" (in his case a gully), build a small dam and impoundment, and run a big pipe downhill for a hundred meters so you have a lot of pressure (not possible with a rooftop). Then wire up a small turbine. Thousands of dollars, not hundreds, and not including permitting fees. This makes no ecological sense unless it is part of an erosion control plan.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby qajaqbob » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:41 pm UTC

Since drag increases with the square of the speed, this limit would be pretty hard to push any further. Biking at 200 m/s would require at least 25 times the power output needed to go 40 m/s.


Wait - that's not right. Drag force increases as the square of the speed, but drag power (power = force * speed) increases as the cube of the speed. At least 125 times the power output needed to go 40 m/s.

At those speeds, you don’t really have to worry about the heating from the air—a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that if your body were doing that much work, your core temperature would reach fatal levels in a matter of seconds.


Which renders the "matter of seconds" into something much shorter.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby ricketybridge » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:51 pm UTC

I must say I was rather disappointed with the hurricane answer. I read the article it was linked to, but it didn't explain what, exactly, would happen if you detonated a nuclear bomb in the middle of a hurricane other than the consequent fall-out. It alludes to the fact that the nuclear bomb may not make much of a difference since a hurricane has the power of detonating a nuclear bomb every 20 minutes (which is a pretty awesome fact, I must admit), but would it really not make a dent at all? Wouldn't at least some of the winds be changed? How so and to what extent? Would a spectator (even if only the pilot who dropped the bomb) be able to see any difference?

I already tried googling around for such an answer, but everything I found either cited that same article or just said it wouldn't work to dispel the hurricane. I also don't even know how to go about figuring it out. I was a liberal arts major; I don't know how to science. :C

This is my first post; apologies if I inadvertently overlooked some rule or post...

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby JudeMorrigan » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:01 pm UTC

MahouShoujoMaruin wrote:You should probably also find some way to wear the money before you use them. Some machines that moves the money around and pushes it against some rough surface or something, so the bills look old and worn. This will help reduce the chance of detection.

Clearly a washer and dryer is just what you need. I mean, we are talking about a money laundering scheme, right? :p

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:25 pm UTC

I think a nuclear bomb might make the hurricane stronger, since the center is warmer and weather is powered by heat gradients. Worst case using them on tropical depressions may cause some kind of nucleation effect, multiplying the bombs destructive power.

Using the pattern (c?vc?)*, all stars could be named in 19 characters, instead or Randal's 24. Math spoilered.
Spoiler:
Regex as regular grammar:
S -> vV
S -> cC
S -> empty
V -> vV
V -> cS
V -> empty
C -> vV
C -> empty

Let Sn, Vn, and Cn represent the number of Strings of length n starting with S, V, or C respectively.
Determining that S0 = V0 = C0 = 1 as each variable goes to empty in only one way.
Determining that Sn = 5 * Vn-1 +21 * C n-1 as there are5 vowel transitions into V and 21 consonant transitions into C
Likewise: Vn = 5 * Vn-1 + 21 * Sn-1 and Cn = 5 * Vn-1
Solving for S19 we get 6.09205 E+23
Either print out $20 bills (people will often check larger ones) or $100,000 if your printer is just that good.

BOOM-erang reminds me or the Crimson boomerang from antihero for hire. Also, the point of a hunting boomerang isn't that it can return, it's that it can be thrown around things to hit other things. For example in a firefight a BOOM-erang would ideally be thrown around the enemy's cover.
Anyway I'm pretty sure it's rare to accidentally throw a boomerang so that it comes back.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby almitydave » Tue Dec 04, 2012 11:29 pm UTC

I wrote a program to generate star names like Randal suggests, but the results, although pronounceable, were quite unpleasant. This got me thinking, what if you incorporate diphthongs and more complicated consonant combinations, etc. etc., could you get "better" names? Next thing you know I've wasted most of the day and this exists: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/3103882/intarwebz/nameastar.html

It produces pronounceable names, if you consider "zluorquoan" and "xoachocuovzleodgluc" pronounceable. It was originally a batch file (I know batch scripts), then I translated it to Javascript (I don't know Javascript). Feel free to use the source for whatever you like if for some inexplicable reason you want to do that.

Also, my fancy language mangling means it's no longer 1:1 between numbers and names, oh well. Also, I don't know anything about real word/name generators, but I hear they exist.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Bloopy » Tue Dec 04, 2012 11:57 pm UTC

Aerodynamics aside, I’m curious what tactical advantage you’re expecting to gain by having the high explosive fly back at you if it misses the target.

McBee wrote:A C4 boomerang would be great! :P
To be more precise, a boomerang-shaped C4 package with a hard shell (made of something light that shrapnels well), with a remote detonation switch worn on the thrower's wrist.
Point, throw, pop if in the desired vicinity of target, or try again if not. :twisted:

Exactly! If it flies back at you, you catch it and throw it again. C4 is not a sensitive contact explosive.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Quicksilver » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:04 am UTC

Real Boomerangs aren't supposed to come back anyway, so it would just be worse than a grenade.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby dudiobugtron » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:27 am UTC

Quicksilver wrote:Real Boomerangs aren't supposed to come back anyway, so it would just be worse than a grenade.

A rocket propelled grenade, maybe. But a boomerang (even one with c4 on it?) would fly a lot better than a conventional grenade.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby sardia » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:36 am UTC

JudeMorrigan wrote:
MahouShoujoMaruin wrote:You should probably also find some way to wear the money before you use them. Some machines that moves the money around and pushes it against some rough surface or something, so the bills look old and worn. This will help reduce the chance of detection.

Clearly a washer and dryer is just what you need. I mean, we are talking about a money laundering scheme, right? :p

Dryer + talcum powder is what the pros use. After they caught the guy, he explained how it made the bills feel used.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby senor_cardgage » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:48 am UTC

ricketybridge wrote:I must say I was rather disappointed with the hurricane answer. I read the article it was linked to, but it didn't explain what, exactly, would happen if you detonated a nuclear bomb in the middle of a hurricane other than the consequent fall-out. It alludes to the fact that the nuclear bomb may not make much of a difference since a hurricane has the power of detonating a nuclear bomb every 20 minutes (which is a pretty awesome fact, I must admit), but would it really not make a dent at all? Wouldn't at least some of the winds be changed? How so and to what extent? Would a spectator (even if only the pilot who dropped the bomb) be able to see any difference?

I already tried googling around for such an answer, but everything I found either cited that same article or just said it wouldn't work to dispel the hurricane. I also don't even know how to go about figuring it out. I was a liberal arts major; I don't know how to science. :C

This is my first post; apologies if I inadvertently overlooked some rule or post...



And this is why we need a test Earth of some sort, perhaps on the other side of the sun, where we can try this stuff out without damaging the real one. When the test Earth gets too messed up, we just throw it into the sun and build a new one.

Scientists, get on it!

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Himself » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:32 am UTC

ricketybridge wrote:I must say I was rather disappointed with the hurricane answer. I read the article it was linked to, but it didn't explain what, exactly, would happen if you detonated a nuclear bomb in the middle of a hurricane other than the consequent fall-out. It alludes to the fact that the nuclear bomb may not make much of a difference since a hurricane has the power of detonating a nuclear bomb every 20 minutes (which is a pretty awesome fact, I must admit), but would it really not make a dent at all? Wouldn't at least some of the winds be changed? How so and to what extent? Would a spectator (even if only the pilot who dropped the bomb) be able to see any difference?

I already tried googling around for such an answer, but everything I found either cited that same article or just said it wouldn't work to dispel the hurricane. I also don't even know how to go about figuring it out. I was a liberal arts major; I don't know how to science. :C

This is my first post; apologies if I inadvertently overlooked some rule or post...


Looking at videos of nuclear tests it seems that, even in every large explosions such as Castle Bravo there seems to be little effect on the clouds more than a few miles from the fireball. Hurricanes, by contrast, are very large convective complexes a few hundred miles across. The mushroom cloud itself seems to rise fairly rapidly, so with a large thermonuclear device would likely penetrate into the stratosphere fairly quickly. Water vaporized by the explosion would then condense within the storm, possibly giving it a little boost in strength, like throwing a stick on a campfire.
Things could get a bit more complicated by setting of the weapon in the eye, as air normally move down there, but I doubt any effects would last long.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:I think a nuclear bomb might make the hurricane stronger, since the center is warmer and weather is powered by heat gradients. Worst case using them on tropical depressions may cause some kind of nucleation effect, multiplying the bombs destructive power.

Hurricanes are actually powered by the heat released by condensation more than by temperature gradients. The amount of thermal energy released by the bomb is small compared to that found in a large mass of tropical air, so while the cyclone might get a bit of a boost, it probably not be notable. Not sure what you mean by a nucleation effect.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Jamaican Castle » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:47 am UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:
Quicksilver wrote:Real Boomerangs aren't supposed to come back anyway, so it would just be worse than a grenade.

A rocket propelled grenade, maybe. But a boomerang (even one with c4 on it?) would fly a lot better than a conventional grenade.

I have a suspicion that if you follow this idea to its logical conclusion, you end up with the ever-popular sci-fi discus grenade. Which, I have to admit, is pretty cool if not necessarily all that useful.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby bmonk » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:48 am UTC

MahouShoujoMaruin wrote:
. . .

If you actually aim to spend these and get away with it, you'd probably invest in the best qualit/most like real money paper you could find. Not glossy photopaper, true, but not the cheapest printing paper either. If you could find some paper with textiles in it, it would be a lot better. Then it would be worth while to invest in the best printer possible, which would probably be a lot more than 200 dollar. You should probably also find some way to wear the money before you use them. Some machines that moves the money around and pushes it against some rough surface or something, so the bills look old and worn. This will help reduce the chance of detection. There would still be a chance of detection though, and once you get caught, it's probably game over, so you need to take that into account. I'm not sure how to get a good estimate for the probability to get caught though. Then there is opportunity cost. If you are a smart guy and willing to work hard(as you would, to print money non-stop without break), you could probably make around 100k dollar a year, so you need to take that into account as well.

When you get down to it, it's probably not a smart choice. Crime actually usually doesn't pay, unless you are a rich CEO or something.

Of course, the question asked what the difference would be to the universe, not to the counterfeiter. And, actually, once several bills were spent (or attempted) and detected, the news would soon go out, and most would be removed from the economy pretty quickly, unless they were really good copies.

I recall that, during WWII, Germany counterfeited British money so closely that the British only really knew by the fact that they have exact duplicates of some notes--and they are still not entirely sure which one is the British-printed one, and which is German-printed.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Angelastic » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:33 am UTC

I interpreted the question as meaning that the printer would be able to print genuine money, so there would be no chance of anyone arresting them for counterfeiting. Also, if you stick to just one denomination, or if you stick to US money, think you'd need to change the ink cartridge more often because you'd use up one colour much faster than the others.

I suppose you'll also need something to cut the notes out of the paper.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby shashwat986 » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:58 am UTC

I didn't get the answer to the "How much physical space does the internet take up? —Max L" question.

How does 2 liters of storage space a second translate to one oil tanker? I mean, I may be interpreting this wrong, but Randall reached this conclusion in his second paragraph: If you have a 2 liter hard-disk with the same memory space to volume ratio as a 3.5" disk, it would represent the amount of storage space created every second.

The third paragraph seems to have no logical connectivity (that I can see) to this conclusion.

Help me out here!!!

EDIT: Change all that to 8 liters. Thanks ijuin
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby ijuin » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:54 am UTC

Eight liters actually (approximately two US gallons). Assuming this eight-liter-per-second average rate of hard disk production, and assuming a typical mean service lifespan of 5-8 years for hard disks, then the total volume of all hard disks currently in service (if they were all the same data density as a current 3.5 inch hard disk that holds 2-3 terabytes) would be comparable to the volume of an oil tanker. The total aggregate volume is arrived at by simply multiplying the eight-liter-per-second production rate by the assumed mean lifespan of hard disks. A five year lifespan would yield approximately 1.26 million cubic meters (1.26 billion liters) of hard drives in service, which is about a third more than the cargo volume of the Seawise Giant, the largest oil tanker yet built.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Trasvi » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:28 pm UTC

I've read a few articles on counterfeit money. The real problem with it these days as I understand it, even if you can produce it very well, is spending/distributing it. You can't buy enough things in cash to spend $200M in cash per year. Factor in that anything that would let you approach those amounts (cars, houses) carries significant paper trails. You need to sell the currency to others, and a *good* return rate is 10% of the face value of the money.
Which is unfortunate, because this What-If inspired me. :P

I love his comment about the maths: "It works, but it just feels so wrong"

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby pkcommando » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:56 pm UTC

Trasvi wrote:I've read a few articles on counterfeit money. The real problem with it these days as I understand it, even if you can produce it very well, is spending/distributing it. You can't buy enough things in cash to spend $200M in cash per year. Factor in that anything that would let you approach those amounts (cars, houses) carries significant paper trails. You need to sell the currency to others, and a *good* return rate is 10% of the face value of the money.
Which is unfortunate, because this What-If inspired me. :P

I love his comment about the maths: "It works, but it just feels so wrong"

You could have accounts w/ several different banks and deposit the cash in many small ATM transactions in addition to your cash purchases. Then those accounts could be used for the larger "paper trail" purchases. However, while the individual amounts would be under the radar for federal reporting ($5,000 transactions? is that right?) I'd be surprised if some program somewhere didn't notice you making 10 $500 deposits at any one bank's ATMs in a short span of time.

Alternatively, instead of selling the currency, you could become a version of one of those Good Samaritans you see in the news giving out wads of cash around Christmas. You wouldn't gain any returns per se, but it would spread the faux-cash into the economy faster than what you could do alone.

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby mathmannix » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:03 pm UTC

senor_cardgage wrote:And this is why we need a test Earth of some sort, perhaps on the other side of the sun, where we can try this stuff out without damaging the real one. When the test Earth gets too messed up, we just throw it into the sun and build a new one.


Funny... all my data suggests that we might already be on the test earth and not know it... hmmm.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:19 pm UTC

The reporting requirements are cumulative $5000 per day. There's also an optional "suspicious activity" report. From what I understand people trying to work the many-small-transactions angle employ smurfs, which costs money. I'd also assume most smurfs are very unprofessional: stealing money, drug habits, triggering suspicious activity reports, arguing endlessly weather "smurf" is a noun or verb.

Another popular option (on TV tropes at least) is to run a cash intensive business, which are exempt from standard reporting requirements. $5,000 in shrinkage? Put some dirty money in the till to cover it. Need some help in the back? Hire an illegal immigrant off the books. Old Milwaukee $20 a bottle? Et cetrea.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby ricketybridge » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:57 pm UTC

Himself wrote:Looking at videos of nuclear tests it seems that, even in every large explosions such as Castle Bravo there seems to be little effect on the clouds more than a few miles from the fireball. Hurricanes, by contrast, are very large convective complexes a few hundred miles across. The mushroom cloud itself seems to rise fairly rapidly, so with a large thermonuclear device would likely penetrate into the stratosphere fairly quickly. Water vaporized by the explosion would then condense within the storm, possibly giving it a little boost in strength, like throwing a stick on a campfire.
Things could get a bit more complicated by setting of the weapon in the eye, as air normally move down there, but I doubt any effects would last long.


Well that's disappointing. So what if we just carpetbombed the thing? The average area of a hurricane appears (according to one source at least) to be around 628 square miles. Let's say a the blast radius of a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb (which is dampened in a storm) is roughly one square mile. So let's say we detonate 628 hydrogen bombs across the entire area of the hurricane, all at the same time (on this "test earth" of course ;-)). What then? Surely the convection currents would be rather disrupted in that case? What if we dropped them all in the eye of the hurricane?

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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:42 pm UTC

senor_cardgage wrote:And this is why we need a test Earth of some sort, perhaps on the other side of the sun, where we can try this stuff out without damaging the real one. When the test Earth gets too messed up, we just throw it into the sun and build a new one.

Scientists, get on it!

Throwing all that mass into the sun's core to interrupt it's fusion? I know it get's sucky when to much lithium builds up let alone carbon, silicon, and heavy earth metals. No, just toss it into orbit around Jupiter or blow it up to replenish Saturn's rings or even just to clear room for an interstellar highway.

bmonk wrote:I recall that, during WWII, Germany counterfeited British money so closely that the British only really knew by the fact that they have exact duplicates of some notes--and they are still not entirely sure which one is the British-printed one, and which is German-printed.
If I remember correctly the only people who can duplicate American currency undetected are foreign governments who really have no reason to do so. Except espionage or economic terrorism.

To the oil tanker part, he means a ship not a semi truck right? And does that account for the space for cooling or do we assume the servers in the middle just magically don't melt into slag.
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Re: What If 23: Short Answer Section II

Postby DavidS » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:04 pm UTC

Since there are 7.8 billion $100 bills in circulation, and the lifetime of a $100 bill is about 90 months, that means there are about a billion produced each year. Your extra two million bills a year would barely be enough to notice.


The conclusion is right, but the argument is wrong. Those billion bills are replacing other worn out bills (banks take old bills to the Fed, who shreds them and returns new bills). One can assume that the person asking this question does not intend to destroy a $100 bill for everyone he prints, so he is increasing the total amount of money in the system.

Here are two more relevant comparisons:

(1) Doing a best fit line on the data at http://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsy ... volume.htm , we see that the number of $100 bills increases by about 300 million a year. (In other words, the Fed is printing 1.3 bills for every 1 that it collects back form a bank.) 2 million would be a small but noticeable fraction of this.

(2) Take a look at http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/se ... NCY?cid=25 . This is essentially the total amount of currency in circulation (see that webpage for more details). Eyeballing it, it looks like an increases of about $20 billion per year, or 200 million $100 bills. (It's odd that this estimate is lower than the first method. I guess people's preference for $100 bills is increasing?) Again, our hypothetical printer is about 1% of the total inflow of cash to the economy.

In summary, Randall is probably right that the effect would be small but noticeable next to the US economy, but it would really be better to compare to situations where bills are created, not replaced.


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