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Old 07-27-2018, 06:37 AM
Barack Obama Barack Obama is offline
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Can humans destroy the planet?

By destroy I mean render incapable of sustaining any known life. Is it possible if all of humanity put their efforts towards destroying all life on earth that we could render the planet incapable of sustaining life?
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Old 07-27-2018, 06:39 AM
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I don't think so. We could do incredible devastation, and probably render it uninhabitable for humans and many forms of complex life for a matter of centuries or even millenia, but that's nearly nothing in the cosmic sense, and Earth's life would eventually recover.
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Old 07-27-2018, 06:41 AM
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Tough part might be the sea organisms. We could make the oceans have to absorb a lot of CO2, or carbon in general, but maybe some organisms like that stuff.
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Old 07-27-2018, 06:55 AM
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Probably not even all land mammals. I can't think of any coordinated action that wouldn't reduce human population at a much faster rate than rats and mice.
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Old 07-27-2018, 06:55 AM
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Only one way to find out.

I'll start on the Aardvarks, who wants to take Adelie Penguins?
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Old 07-27-2018, 07:11 AM
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I believe we collectively have enough nuclear warheads to clear all the lands of life and this would surely cause a massive die-off in the ocean but not leave it sterile by any means.

There are around 15000 to 21000 nuclear warheads from what I can google.

https://www.globalzero.org/blog/how-...-uninhabitable
https://gizmodo.com/5899569/how-many...-entire-planet

There may be but hopefully not some Cobalt Bombs in the Russian arsenal, these extremely high radiation producing bombs in a air blast would really devastate life on the and near the surface.

But eventually some critters would colonize the land again after it was safer.

Last edited by What Exit?; 07-27-2018 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 07-27-2018, 07:52 AM
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You guys are thinking too small. The question is not 'Do we have the capability right this second of wiping out life?' but rather 'If we put our minds to it, could we do it?' And I think that we could, but it wouldn't be easy. I'm picturing something like deflecting a Kuiper belt object to impact the earth and slow its rotational speed. The collision alone would likely wipe out most multicellular life, but more importantly, it would kill the magnetosphere and that would eventually boil the atmosphere off into space and the water would soon go with it. It's not a guarantee that you wouldn't still have some life hiding somewhere, but I think it's reasonable to think we could take it all out. Of course, this is a multi-millenia project without a lot of room for error, but I'm going to vote that it's possible.
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:07 AM
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By destroy I mean render incapable of sustaining any known life. Is it possible if all of humanity put their efforts towards destroying all life on earth that we could render the planet incapable of sustaining life?
That's a pretty tall order.

You might wipe out most of the land animals/plants with salted nukes, but you're not going to get every single bacterium everywhere.

And you're definitely not going to wipe out the oceans. You'll do plenty of damage, but I don't think there's any way you can get it all.

And you're definitely, definitely not going to get the isolated ecosystems surrounding deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Those communities are pretty much independent from the rest of us.
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:15 AM
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By destroy I mean render incapable of sustaining any known life. Is it possible if all of humanity put their efforts towards destroying all life on earth that we could render the planet incapable of sustaining life?
No, not currently. Nukes aren't going to even kill all life on the surface. What you need is a really, really big rock (or ball of ice), going really, REALLY fast, but humans to date have no way of really getting one to come hither and hit where we need it too. I suppose in the not so distant future we'd be able to do something, if we all worked together, but that's going to be the only way we could kill all life, including that kilometers under ground or in the deepest oceans. I forgot what the range was, but I think anything over 200 kilometers in diameter should do the trick (could be a bit larger needed) if it's going fast enough.
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:52 AM
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That's a pretty tall order.
...snipped...
And you're definitely, definitely not going to get the isolated ecosystems surrounding deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Those communities are pretty much independent from the rest of us.
Another area that would be difficult to 'treat' would be deep cave bacteria. I'd bet that nukes and such would have little direct effect on such biome(s).

I've heard it said that, here on Earth, if there is a drop of water anywhere (reasonably speaking), it's going to contain life of some sort. An insect has been found as deep as ~6500' (!). Life has even been found below deep ice in Antarctica (pretty sure, no cite right now).

Seems that it would take something along lines of orchestrating a physical destruction/removal of the entirety of Earth's crust by an enormous space-body (from an orbit, of course, to be certain) would be needed to sterilize life's crystal hideaways in any human-scale timespan.

The fallout from a human-caused rad event is not likely to sterilize it all. Its been found that a fungus actually grew better after high-levels of radiation were imposed on it post-accident at Chernobyl.

Sterilizing Earth sure seems to be out the human realm of possibility, to me anyways.
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Old 07-27-2018, 09:49 AM
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Seems that it would take something along lines of orchestrating a physical destruction/removal of the entirety of Earth's crust by an enormous space-body (from an orbit, of course, to be certain) would be needed to sterilize life's crystal hideaways in any human-scale timespan.
This. You'd need to pretty much roast everything down to the mantle to truly wipe out all life. Lovely artistic depiction here. I've heard the phrase "crustal tsunami" used to describe this sort of event: on this size scale and with this much energy, the crust of the earth can be understood as a viscous liquid, splashing and flowing outward in a wave due to the impact and dissipating its kinetic energy as heat.
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Old 07-27-2018, 10:14 AM
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This announcement by the International Earth-Destruction Advisory Board (IEDAB) reports that the Earth was already destroyed in 2008, but it is possible that either it didn't take or there was a false alarm due to some faulty instrumentation and the experiment should be repeated.
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Old 07-27-2018, 10:25 AM
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And you're definitely, definitely not going to get the isolated ecosystems surrounding deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Those communities are pretty much independent from the rest of us.
Boil all the seas, and those guys are dead. But even that won't get the endoliths - 3km underground at least. Only a total crustal meltdown is going to get all of those. And we don't have the power or tech to go full Base Delta Zero on our planet, I think.
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Old 07-27-2018, 11:04 AM
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I could do it easily if I could just find that missing Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. Although you did specify humans...
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Old 07-27-2018, 11:08 AM
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By destroy I mean render incapable of sustaining any known life. Is it possible if all of humanity put their efforts towards destroying all life on earth that we could render the planet incapable of sustaining life?
If you could somehow destabilize the moon's orbit and have it crash into the earth, that would probably do it. I don't know how you'd do that, but that'd probably get everything.
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Old 07-27-2018, 11:14 AM
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Dump the Earth into the Sun. It's the only way to be sure.
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Old 07-27-2018, 11:19 AM
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I'm picturing something like deflecting a Kuiper belt object to impact the earth and slow its rotational speed.
Um, do you understand scale? The nearest KBO is billions of miles away. Deflecting one of those things toward Earth in a timeframe less than millennia is unrealistic. Not to mention, they are composed of materials that are solids in the Belt but by the time you get them down here, most of their mass would have boiled off.

Now, the Asteroid belt, you might be able to get some useful rocks outta that, but the question is whether we could move one big enough into the right trajectory. Doing a carrom, so that the Moon's orbit goes all whack might be more effective.
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Old 07-27-2018, 11:24 AM
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My man Lemmy was asked this question and I'll paraphrase his response.
"The Earth is made of volcanoes. We aren't going to destroy the Earth, we're just going to destroy that bit of it that we need."
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Old 07-27-2018, 12:30 PM
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I believe we collectively have enough nuclear warheads to clear all the lands of life and this would surely cause a massive die-off in the ocean but not leave it sterile by any means.

There are around 15000 to 21000 nuclear warheads from what I can google.

https://www.globalzero.org/blog/how-...-uninhabitable
https://gizmodo.com/5899569/how-many...-entire-planet

There may be but hopefully not some Cobalt Bombs in the Russian arsenal, these extremely high radiation producing bombs in a air blast would really devastate life on the and near the surface.

But eventually some critters would colonize the land again after it was safer.
Moderate damage distance from a 10 megaton explosion is about 1 mile. Assuming 10 megatons is about the average yield of a nuke, you'd get about a square mile of moderate damage zone out of each (Note that people and animals can still survive in the moderate damage zone if very lucky). So 21 000 warheads would take out about 21 000 square miles.

Earths land surface is about 57 million square miles. And we can probably skip most of Antarctica, about 5 million sq. miles. So we'd need, roughly 2 500 times the number of nukes the world currently possess.

The difference between this and the Gizmodo calculation is that they seem to consider everything in the light damage zone wrecked, whereas we'd need things killed outright. In practice we'd need far more nukes because we'd need to insure that random survivors don't get together and breed back. Climate effects should help outside the tropics.
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:19 PM
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Moderate damage distance from a 10 megaton explosion is about 1 mile. Assuming 10 megatons is about the average yield of a nuke, you'd get about a square mile of moderate damage zone out of each (Note that people and animals can still survive in the moderate damage zone if very lucky). So 21 000 warheads would take out about 21 000 square miles.

Earths land surface is about 57 million square miles. And we can probably skip most of Antarctica, about 5 million sq. miles. So we'd need, roughly 2 500 times the number of nukes the world currently possess.
The Cobalt bombs that What Exit and I have referred to derive their destructive power not as heat and pressure, but as radiation. The explosion is lovely of course, but their bigger effect is the distribution of massive amounts of highly radioactive material over a very large area. Sure, they'll only incinerate everything within their one-mile blast radius - but the radiation they disperse will kill every living thing within a far larger radius (I'm using "radius" here loosely - really we'd be talking about a downwind plume).

It might take a very long time for such fallout to reach hydrothermal vents (deep ocean currents circulate very slowly), by which time the radiation may have faded enough to be non-lethal. It's entirely possible you could kill very nearly everything that depends directly or indirectly on the sun (and therefore on the usual food chains), but I don't think even this would get everything.
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:42 PM
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Quoth eschereal:

Um, do you understand scale? The nearest KBO is billions of miles away. Deflecting one of those things toward Earth in a timeframe less than millennia is unrealistic.
Yup, and senoy admitted that it'd take millennia. If you want something done, take the time to do it right.
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:42 PM
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Moderate damage distance from a 10 megaton explosion is about 1 mile. Assuming 10 megatons is about the average yield of a nuke, you'd get about a square mile of moderate damage zone out of each (Note that people and animals can still survive in the moderate damage zone if very lucky). So 21 000 warheads would take out about 21 000 square miles.

Earths land surface is about 57 million square miles. And we can probably skip most of Antarctica, about 5 million sq. miles. So we'd need, roughly 2 500 times the number of nukes the world currently possess.

The difference between this and the Gizmodo calculation is that they seem to consider everything in the light damage zone wrecked, whereas we'd need things killed outright. In practice we'd need far more nukes because we'd need to insure that random survivors don't get together and breed back. Climate effects should help outside the tropics.
And, this is what we get from our education system.

No, moderate damage from a 10 kiloton bomb is around 1 mile.
A 10 Megaton bomb would destroy the entire New York metro area, or at least the best part of it.
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:46 PM
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Apparently 100 nuclear explosives set off in one region would have some pretty world devastating consequences:https://www.globalzero.org/blog/how-...-uninhabitable
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Old 07-27-2018, 02:50 PM
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We love aardwolves now? ...
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Old 07-27-2018, 04:03 PM
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I believe we collectively have enough nuclear warheads to clear all the lands of life and this would surely cause a massive die-off in the ocean but not leave it sterile by any means.

There are around 15000 to 21000 nuclear warheads from what I can google.

https://www.globalzero.org/blog/how-...-uninhabitable
https://gizmodo.com/5899569/how-many...-entire-planet

There may be but hopefully not some Cobalt Bombs in the Russian arsenal, these extremely high radiation producing bombs in a air blast would really devastate life on the and near the surface.

But eventually some critters would colonize the land again after it was safer.

The problem is that average nuclear warhead today is closer to 500kt than anything else on that page. According to their own calculation, they would need 336,000 weapons of this size to "destroy" land area.

The FAS estimates that there are about 14,500 nuclear weapons in existence today.

We we are short by 20X.

Nukes are not even close. You need astronomical entity or go home.
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Old 07-27-2018, 04:05 PM
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A 10 Megaton bomb would destroy the entire New York metro area, or at least the best part of it.
How does a nuclear warhead know what are the best parts of the city? Is it reading Yelp or something?
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Old 07-27-2018, 04:19 PM
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How does a nuclear warhead know what are the best parts of the city? Is it reading Yelp or something?
Yelp?
You are bad reviews.
Let there be light.
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Old 07-27-2018, 04:35 PM
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Barack Obama wants to know if it's possible to destroy the entire planet?

Man, maybe the Republicans were right about him after all.

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Old 07-27-2018, 07:34 PM
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Ask George Carlin:

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Old 07-27-2018, 07:50 PM
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This announcement by the International Earth-Destruction Advisory Board (IEDAB) reports that the Earth was already destroyed in 2008, but it is possible that either it didn't take or there was a false alarm due to some faulty instrumentation and the experiment should be repeated.
There's a number to call to let them know when the earth is destroyed: +44 115 09Ω 4127
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:32 PM
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There are around 15000 to 21000 nuclear warheads from what I can google.
The Federation for American Scientists estimate gives some more detail and has total estimated world inventory at 14,485 in early 2018. The Global Zero link used interesting rounding rules (or slightly older data to be fair) but they are at least in the right ball park. Of that, ~9335 are in military stockpiles with ~3,750 deployed and ready for use right away as opposed to being in central stockpiles requiring shipping to delivery systems. The other near five thousand are retired but not yet dismantled. It's probably worth assuming that not all the retired warheads can be returned to service quickly.

The Gizmodo link is from 2012. If you look at my cite, the chart from FAS shows that being about the number of warheads for the time the story was published. Those retired weapons really are being dismantled. Estimates date pretty quickly as a result. If the US and Russia can keep up the pace captured in that period, the number goes down by over 1k warheads a year.
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Old 07-28-2018, 12:02 AM
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I think the explosion route is flawed ... we'd have to kill every last cell over all the land area ... just one bacterium survives and the world will be full of life again in short order ... we're vaporizing rocks and soil down five or ten feet ... not enough by a wide margin ... and all these explosion would have to be simultaneous, just one little gap the size of a cell or even a spore and we've failed ...

Smacking the Earth with something will take a fairly large something ... and it's been over four billion years since this happened ...

We need something that boils away of the surface layer say down 30 or 40 km ... or a full crust turnover ... perhaps something that eliminates the magnetic field ...

How about a great big particle accelerator that allows us to make a black hole in the Swiss Alps, turn the Earth into neutron degenerate matter ... with luck we can cause a pair-instability supernova ... see if we can't bring about the Big Rip ... winking the entire universe out of existence would certainly work ...

Last edited by watchwolf49; 07-28-2018 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 07-28-2018, 01:25 AM
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Well, there is also the Stavromula Beta dilemma. I mean, we can only assume that Arthur and Agrajag have not yet resolved the dilemma based on the fact that the Earth exists, because once they do, Earth will be erased for billions of years into the past in order to complete the bypass on schedule.
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Old 07-29-2018, 05:54 PM
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I think you're all thinking too hard about this. All we need to do is to turn our atmosphere into something similar to Venus with its runaway greenhouse effect. That'd take care of land and sea. We've arguably already started this process so we probably don't have to do much. I was going to suggest bringing CFCs back but we wouldn't want to wipe out too many humans before the runaway properly took hold.
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Old 07-29-2018, 08:50 PM
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Earth's greenhouse can't run away as far as Venus's. We're further from the Sun, and have a lot less volatiles.
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Old 07-29-2018, 09:55 PM
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It takes a lot of work just to sterilize a space probe. And you want to sterilize the entire earth?? Not a chance, unless you move the whole planet closer to the Sun, or build a space mirror several times the size of the Earth and focus it on the Earth.
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Old 07-30-2018, 07:50 PM
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There's no need to add energy to the Earth all at once. Why not do it gradually and shake it apart?

I propose the destruction of the Earth using a network of telegeodynamic oscillators.
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Old 07-30-2018, 09:28 PM
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Do we have to outlast those other pesky species? Because, if not, it seems to me all we have to do is to sit down and roll our thumbs... for a looooooong time..!
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Old 07-30-2018, 09:29 PM
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Mother Nature has quite a few times made fairly good attempts to remove life from the planet
even as far as devastating life in the oceans, and yet life remains.
She has smashed it, flamed it, froze it, greenhoused it, massively poisoned it etc etc.

I highly doubt man has the capacity to do more

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Old 07-31-2018, 06:38 AM
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Discussion of the effects of detonating a nuclear bomb in the Marianas Trench:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tbxDgcv74c

(Short version: Life in the Challenger Deep would be gone. Radioactive contamination in the ocean might cause a bit of trouble. But by and large, the planet would barely notice.)
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Old 07-31-2018, 07:18 AM
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Most cost effective, I think, would be to engineer a particularly potent bacteriophage. Aren't genetic scientists getting close to this ability? The virus would only need to target one or two bacterial types, e.g. rhizobacteria, essential for higher life.

In any scenario I'm afraid some bacteria and higher forms would survive. If plans required on-going destructive measures, the complete collapse of civilization might prevent execution. Still, eliminating a few major classes of organisms, e.g. the mammals, might be doable. Will this satisfy OP?
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Old 07-31-2018, 05:03 PM
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I think you're all thinking too hard about this. All we need to do is to turn our atmosphere into something similar to Venus with its runaway greenhouse effect. That'd take care of land and sea. We've arguably already started this process so we probably don't have to do much. I was going to suggest bringing CFCs back but we wouldn't want to wipe out too many humans before the runaway properly took hold.
We don't even know if this has managed to kill all life on Venus, let alone that it would do it here where life has had a few extra billion years to entrench. How would your plan kill, oh, say all of the life 10 or 20 kilometers underground? Or in the upper atmosphere (where life on Venus might still be holding on)? Even if you could recreate the exact same environment that is on Venus here on Earth I don't think you'd kill everything. And, of course, it's gonna be a bit harder to do, since the Earth is further away (as well as several other factors that Venus enjoys that the Earth doesn't have).

No, you need to drop something big on the planet going really, really fast. Maybe figure out a way to shift Mercury in it's orbit at just the right time and place to send it into the Earth. Or one of the really big moons or asteroids with a few gravity assist boosts in speed to get it up to a decent speed before crashing it into the planet.
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Old 07-31-2018, 06:04 PM
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You're right, I didn't plan for the life 20km underground. The only solution is to throw the Earth into the Sun somehow. How can we do this? Gravitational slingshot. One carefully aimed pebble thrown into the right part of our solar system could disrupt the orbit of a slighter bigger rock, which in turn moves a larger rock, which moves an astroid, which moves a bigger astroid, and so on until a small moon is moved in such a way as to move a bigger moon until planets are singing their way across the solar system before finally catapulting the Earth into the Sun. Pretty straight forward really. I'll let others do the maths.
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Old 08-01-2018, 01:28 PM
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The gravitational and kinetic energies that must be converted in the amplifying slingshots to cause a major collision are stupendous. Yes, you can in principle use a cascade of slingshots to achieve high amplification but huge precision would be needed. (Errors would accumulate. And the orbits might take a while to line up did OP impose a deadline?)

BTW, you desscribed an eight-ball combination, like in pool? When the topic comes up in How will we deflect the asteroid? threads a consensus (not me though!) seems to agree even a one-ball combo is very hard to do.
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Old 08-01-2018, 01:54 PM
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Two Orion spacecrafts one "north" and the other "south" of the earth, each using half of humanity's nuke arsenal, crashing into each pole at the same time at maximum speed?
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Old 08-01-2018, 02:36 PM
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Watching the devastation of the wildfires in California, it got be thinking. If there is mass nuclear exchange using most of the world's nuclear weapons, won't the explosions ignite fires that will spread far beyond the blast radius of the bombs? Couldn't these fires cause as much structural damage as the blast themselves? I can't imagine there would be much firefighting infrastructure left intact after a nuclear exchange. I admit even this scenario would not be world ending.
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Old 08-01-2018, 03:53 PM
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Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
Quoth Frodo:

Two Orion spacecrafts one "north" and the other "south" of the earth, each using half of humanity's nuke arsenal, crashing into each pole at the same time at maximum speed?
That'd give you at most the same total energy as just setting the nukes off on Earth, actually much less because an Orion drive is really inefficient, and even of the energy you delivered most would just be wasted in sending a lot of debris away really fast. And even setting them all off on Earth, spaced for maximum dispersal, wouldn't even remotely come close.
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Old 08-01-2018, 04:55 PM
rat avatar rat avatar is offline
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Originally Posted by dorvann View Post
Watching the devastation of the wildfires in California, it got be thinking. If there is mass nuclear exchange using most of the world's nuclear weapons, won't the explosions ignite fires that will spread far beyond the blast radius of the bombs? Couldn't these fires cause as much structural damage as the blast themselves? I can't imagine there would be much firefighting infrastructure left intact after a nuclear exchange. I admit even this scenario would not be world ending.
The asteroid that ended the Cretaceous period was about 100 teratones of TNT or over 1 billion Hiroshimas.

Last edited by rat avatar; 08-01-2018 at 04:57 PM.
  #49  
Old 08-01-2018, 05:32 PM
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Fiendish Astronaut Fiendish Astronaut is offline
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
The gravitational and kinetic energies that must be converted in the amplifying slingshots to cause a major collision are stupendous. Yes, you can in principle use a cascade of slingshots to achieve high amplification but huge precision would be needed. (Errors would accumulate. And the orbits might take a while to line up — did OP impose a deadline?)



BTW, you desscribed an eight-ball combination, like in pool? When the topic comes up in How will we deflect the asteroid? threads a consensus (not me though!) seems to agree even a one-ball combo is very hard to do.


My tongue was in my cheek when I described it. Without doubt we don't have anywhere close to even a fraction of a percent of the ability to do this. Yet.
  #50  
Old 08-01-2018, 06:30 PM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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It would be far easier to terraform Mars to support life.
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