This essay follows on from the previous one, In which cream cheese fetishes fuel geological pinball.
Disaster! A huge series of dangerous earthquakes threatened the entire country, and the Wellington city council’s plan of pumping vast amounts of supercooled helium-3 from Jupiter into a country-spanning Selley’s No More Gaps mineral seam instead played geologic pinball with half the world, and killed off UK conservatism for good. New Zealand’s country-destroying earthquake juice still built and grew, and fear of this blossomed around the country. We must try again, the nation said!
Wellington instantly rallied, and called a third solution-searching council, to sort this earthquake shit out once and for all. Two ranks of severed heads, this time, were terrifyingly visible at this gathering, belonging to disgraced former scientists who’d chaired the first two failed councils.
Citizens schemed, planned and plotted. All sorts of ideas to halt the gathering buildup of subterranean tectonic energy were put forward:
Cut more fault lines in Antarctica and hope the energy thinks it’ll have easier pickings there, and zip off.
Put the entire country on roller skates to avoid the worst of the shaking from the inevitable earthquake.
Construct millions of hydraulic pumps up and down the country, rivet them into the ground extremely securely, and set ‘em running 24/7, to produce so much continuous ground-shaking that every citizen would become desensitized to the continuous movement and jostling, and the actual earthquake would pass by unnoticed.
Far into the night the council went, discussing ever more hare-brained schemes and plans. The problem, they drunkenly slurred to each other under the influence of that meeting’s Official Booze Supply, was that there was all too much tectonic tension and stress under New Zealand, and more tension was added every single day.
Just recently we tried to puncture that tension by adding helium-3 to every single fault line, they reminded each other, and just look what happened – India tried this and twanged itself across half the world, and now the numberless masses of India are setting up shop in Alaska! Clearly we have to release tectonic tension gradually. But how?
At 5:30am, those members of the council still conscious stumbled across the germ of an idea – after gormlessly staring out the nearest window and across the city, they watched early-morning commuters drive their vehicles vertically up the sides of nearby buildings. These vehicles were traversing the Velcro streets placed there some ten years earlier by the previous Wellington city administration, so that if central-city commuters fitted their cars with Velcro tyres, they could skip the hassle of paying for the use of a parking building, instead drive directly up the sides of their place of work, and simply park their cars right in the same office.
The drunken councilors watched with glazed eyes at the vertical cars, listened to the endless ripping sounds of Velcro tyres reluctantly breaking free of their substrate, and Ideas came to them.
Within a few short hours, mining engineers were hard at work, smoothing off the faces of New Zealand’s largest fault line, and using immense carbon nanotube girders to rivet together every single other fault line in the country. Next, the engineers applied vast sheets of Velcro to each side of the now-straightened main fault line, and they stuck the two tectonic plates each bordering New Zealand temporarily together.
Now the engineers could unstick and restick the constantly moving tectonic plates at their leisure, and control continental drift at will! The slow and gradual release of earthquake-generating tension was now under the full control of humanity, and at last, Wellington breathed a sigh of relief, relaxed fully for the first time in about forty years, and a round of congratulatory back-slapping kicked off. Huge success!
Five minutes later the subterranean Velcro caught fire and burned to a crisp. Drift resumed, and heads rolled.
Council meeting four. Three rows of severed heads were on display. Experts on plate tectonics and earthquake suppression arrived from all over the world, to impart their professional advice, and to air out their old suits of bullet-proof and guillotine-proof armour. Debate and argument carried on for day after day, with much pounding on tables, mighty hurrahs, cheers, boos, wedgies, hisses, treachery, pizza, intrigue, criticism, coffee, admonishing and brainstorming. After a week of nonstop debating, amid omnipresent, increased earthquake rumbling, the city council had the best and greatest idea yet proposed.
Question: What causes earthquakes?
Answer: Tectonic plates rubbing together.
Question: Why do they rub together?
Answer: Convection currents in the Earth’s mantle push and shove them around.
Question: What drives the convection currents?
Answer: Vast amounts of heat radiating out from the Earth’s core.
Question: How to best get rid of this heat, puncture the currents, halt the plates and obsolete earthquakes?
Answer: Remove the core! Hollow out the Earth!
Messages, orders and directives spat out from the Wellington city council, and soon the entire country’s industry started spitting out vast amounts of automatic earth-moving equipment, rock-pulverisers, drills, rams, scoops, explosives, anything and everything required to smash through the Earth’s crust and mantle and expose many Moons’ worth of molten core.
Vast gantries and drydocks constructed hundred-kilometre-long airborne construction platforms, crammed with elaborate equipment, which when complete, thundered skyward. After some weeks of feverish equipment and gear stockpiling, the howling hurricane-sized whirling maelstrom of precisely controlled airborne equipment charged north, to the equator, where a site had been chosen to excavate a 10km-radius hole.
The plan was to punch through the Earth’s crust and mantle, down to the core, and also to add a reinforcing scaffold to the underside of the mantle, so that vacating the core didn’t make the entire Earth collapse in on itself. Digging began!
One of the maxims of good engineering is Efficient Laziness. Why expend lots of energy moving shit around when Nature can do it for you? Consider siphoning. It’s one of the easiest ways of emptying a large liquid tank; simply lower one end of a tube into it, move the other end lower than the first end, apply suction so that the liquid in question moves up the tube to the tank’s spout, then much further down to the other end of the tube, and then gravity does the rest! Simple, efficient and straightforward. The geologic engineers wanted to do the same to the Earth’s core. But how? What location would be further down? Surely the core, the very centre of the Earth is as far down as you can go?
Not so! Hop up out of Earth’s gravity well. Once you’re out, you’re confronted with a much bigger gravity well. The Sun’s! And once you start plummeting down near the Sun, you’ll find yourself much much further down indeed. So, to siphon the Earth, simply have a tube climb up from the core, out of Earth’s gravity well, and extending a lot further down into the Sun’s gravity well. Simple.
New Zealand’s engineers drilled through the tough, solid crust and gooey-hot mantle to crack open the core and achieve this very task. Once through, the Earth’s rotation was stopped for a few hours so that, relative to the Sun-Earth system, the newly drilled hole would stay pointing in one direction. The 40km difference between Earth’s equatorial and polar diameters due to centrifugal force from daily rotation asserted itself, and a very few million insignificant little continent-pulverising resettling events took place.
A vast rubber hose, millions of kilometres long, that’d been constructed by New Zealand’s Space Program, was dropped from the Sun-Earth Lagrange-1 point, into the hole and into the core.
Finally, the space-suited Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, supernaturally summoned into existence by the Naughtily Paranormal arm of the NZ Skeptic Society for this very purpose, started sucking enthusiastically on the top end of the hose. Liquid hot magma, with chocolate flavouring injected into it to attract the services of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, cascaded upward to the L1 point and down toward the Sun, and was caught in vast storage tanks for future processing.
The inner core, even hotter yet made solid by the titanic pressures from the thousands of kilometres of molten rock above, reverted to liquid as the outer core was pumped away, then got sucked up with the rest.
All of New Zealand was glued to their TVs and watched with hushed reverence as the magma levels in the Earth’s core dropped and fell away. The mantle’s convection currents, denied their heat-based fuel, ground to a halt, and the tectonic plate pressure up and down the country’s fault lines, formerly so gigantic and terrifyingly powerful, dissolved to nothing. Volcanoes faltered and geothermal vents sputtered and froze. No more earthquakes! Huge success! The entire country erupted in celebration, and a national holiday was declared!
Five minutes later, the Sun spat off an average-sized solar flare, and the complete lack of Earth’s magnetic field, usually generated by the liquid sloshing of the now absent core, meant the usually harmless flare killed half the world’s population and gave a devastatingly attractive and very sexy tan to the other half. Shit! The engineer team hurriedly ordered the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to hock the core material back into the Earth, then they all had nervous breakdowns.