ftb47 wrote:This needs a revisit.
The question wasn't how deep does it need to be to get rid of all the air, the question was how deep does it need to be to suffocate everybody. I suspect a much smaller hole is needed for that.
A "hole" is really just an emptying of a patch of space. If the goal is to suffocate everyone on Earth with a hole while minimizing its de-filling volume... Reframe the question and you start to realize that there are actually quite a lot of options.
First, note that the question doesn't specify that the hole must be on Earth.
Maybe we can carve a small hole into the Sun's core and make it go nova. But no, the hole would be far bigger than what we'd need on Earth (I assume). Plus, the people wouldn't suffocate. They'd disintegrate. But, if we could somehow halt fusion without vaporizing everyone back home then Earth's floral life will die off. (Eventually. After the Sun cools down.) After that, it's simply a matter of waiting for the oxygen levels to drop.
We also might be able to put a hole in spacetime and trigger vacuum decay... but that presents the same problem. Namely, no one has the time
to be dying of suffocation.
What if we make a wormhole? That's a 'hole', right? Put one end on Earth and the other someplace else.
Or, going further, what if we allow multiple
holes? I'm envisioning proton sized holes here—one for each oxygen atom in the atmosphere. Just
one. Just enough to transmute our oxygen supply into asphyxiating nitrogen. Of course, once we start dealing with subatomic particles our sense of "size" becomes a bit fuzzy, especially since the goal is to use the smallest size possible... If we make the hole too small to encompass the proton, does the proton "pop out"? Or do we get "half a proton"?
Well, never mind all that. There's a much easier way to suffocate everyone by punching holes in places they don't belong. Instead of removing the entire atmosphere, let's just remove everyone's lungs. It is surprisingly difficult to find the average lung volume—as opposed to air capacity—so I am just going to assume each lung to be roughly the size of a human heart. That's 70 millilitres. Given two of those for each human on Earth, Wolfram Alpha gives me a bit more than one billion litres, or a giant cube the length of a football/soccer field.
Wolfram Alpha also tells me that this is equivalent to 1.01 trillion square-persons cubic-meters. I'm not too sure what that's supposed to mean, unfortunately. Presumably a quirk of how populations are encoded.http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=70+ml+*+human+population+*+2
Edit: A cubic football/soccer field packed full of human lungs (what a mental image, that) almost seems too small to hold the global lung supply. Does this seem too small to anyone else, or is it about right and I'm just overestimating what 7.2 billion people means?
(Or perhaps I'm underestimating
the sheer scale of a sports field.)
Scott Auld wrote:
Silhalnor wrote:Like measuring fuel expenditure in square meters! I can't seem to find that one now, though...
Maybe it's https://what-if.xkcd.com/11/
Ah! Yes. Thanks! I loved that insight.