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].

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  1. This is phenomenal! There is no greater pleasure than well-informed nerdy speculation!

    ….aaannnnd that’s why I’m in grad school, unlike normal sensible people.

  2. I cannot tell you how much I love this!! This is exactly the kind of randomness I wonder. That said:

    I am never getting anything done ever again.

    Which is a problem… but only cuz I have to pack for A-Camp.

  3. 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.

    • Crops destroyed by blackouts. People fighting each other with stilettos. Burning Chucks for warmth.

      Tom of Tom’s Shoes is blamed for the calamity. A raging mob tracks him down, screaming, “One for one?! This is what one for one gets us!”

      • As a little one, I was so skeptical of scrooge mcduck being able to swim in his gold. I was always like “he’ll break his face diving into that. gold is too damn hard”.

        Mind you, I had no problems accepting that an anthropomorphic pro-capitalist gold hording duck could exist… I just couldn’t get past the part where he would physically be able to swim in gold.

  4. It is hard to wake up every morning and do science, but then a jewel like this comes along. This made my morning, I love geekery!
    Thank you so much.
    -From a delusional engineer ;)

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