What If? Takes Thought Experiments To The Next Level

What if everyone who took the SAT guessed on every multiple-choice question?

What would happen if everyone on earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?

What if everyone actually had only one soul mate, a random person somewhere in the world?

Randall Munroe, the mind behind xkcd, has some suggestions. In typical I-don’t-know-how-or-why-your-brain-went-there,-but-I-like-that-it-did xkcd fashion, Munroe comes up with some bizarre but fascinating answers to things you might have wondered at one point or another in the project What If?.

One of my favorite tangents comes from the answer to the question “What would happen if you were to gather a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (the small furry critter) in one place?”

via: What If?

After dismissing the possibility of fitting a mole of moles on earth, Munroe suggests turning a mole of moles into a planet of its own and takes us through the hypothetical future of planet mole.

The outer surface of the planet radiates heat into space and freezes. Because the moles form a literal fur coat, when frozen it insulates the interior of the planet and slows the loss of heat to space. However, the flow of heat in the liquid interior is dominated by convection. Plumes of hot meat and bubbles of trapped gases like methane—along with the air from the lungs of the deceased moles—periodically rise through the mole crust and erupt volcanically from the surface, a geyser of death blasting mole bodies free of the planet.

I mean seriously. WTF. But also LOL. And wow.

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. So my advisor’s husband was telling one of our shoe-obsessed undergrads (yes, I go to one of the few places where undergrads have money for hundreds of pairs of shoes) that she should try to collect a mole of shoes.

    I thought about that, did a slight amount of calculations quickly assuming that a pair of shoes (I was assuming mole of pairs of shoes) is a kilogram (way too much, I know) but if you assume that, a mole of pairs of shoes is like, 10% of the weight of the earth.

    Halving that to actual shoes, not pairs, and halving shoe weight (because you know, girly shoes are lighter than sneakers) that’s still 2.5% of the earth’s mass in SHOE form. Imagine a world covered in shoes. ALL THE SHOES.

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