RANDALL MUNROE what if? GLOBAL WINDSTORM Q. What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the. sonic wind zone, but the winds there would still be twice as strong as those in the most powerful tornadoes. Buildings, from sheds to skyscrapers, would be. What if we don't hit it off right away? It's not easy to trust a stranger, especially if you're a young person who's had a lot of bad experiences with adults in the past.

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Last night, while I lay thinking here, some Whatifs crawled inside my ear and pranced and partied all night long and sang their same old Whatif. Q. What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?—Andy Connolly. “What if?” questions are a powerful way in which anxious individuals generate or maintain anxious states, particularly in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

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Click OK. Close Acrobat Reader if necessary. Return to your browser Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. Refresh the page, and click on the link to the PDF file. For the first handful of microseconds, nothing happens. On this timescale, even the air molecules are nearly stationary. For the most part, air molecules jiggle around at speeds of a few hundred meters per second.

But at any given time, some happen to be moving faster than others. The fastest few are moving at over meters per second. These are the first to drift into the vacuum in the glass on the right. However, in the vacuum of the glasses, it does start to boil, slowly shedding water vapor into the empty space. While the water on the surface in both glasses starts to boil away, in the glass on the right, the air rushing in stops it before it really gets going.

The sides of the glass bulge slightly, but they contain the pressure and do not break. A shockwave reverberates through the water and back into the air, joining the turbulence already there.

The shockwave from the vacuum collapse takes about a millisecond to spread out through the other two glasses. The glass and water both flex slightly as the wave passes through them. Around this time, the glass on the left starts to visibly lift into the air.

This is the force we think of as suction. The boiling water has filled the vacuum with a very small amount of water vapor. However, the glass and water are now moving too fast for the vapor buildup to matter.

Without a cushion of air between them —only a few wisps of vapor —the water smacks into the bottom of the glass like a hammer.

The momentary force on the glass is immense, and it breaks. In our situation, the forces would be more than enough to destroy even the heaviest drinking glasses. The bottom is carried downward by the water and thunks against the table. The water splashes around it, spraying droplets and glass shards in all directions. Meanwhile, the detached upper portion of the glass continues to rise. After half a second, the observers, hearing a pop, have begun to flinch.

Their heads lift involuntarily to follow the rising movement of the glass. The glass has just enough speed to bang against the ceiling, breaking into fragments. The lesson: If the optimist says the glass is half full, and the pessimist says the glass is half empty, the physicist ducks.

Radio transmissions Contact popularized the idea of aliens listening in on our broadcast media. Sadly, the odds are against it. Space is really big. The full picture is more complicated, but the bottom line is that as our technology has gotten better, less of our radio traffic has been leaking out into space. Even in the late 20th century, when we were using TV and radio to scream into the void at the top of our lungs, the signal probably faded to undetectability after a few light-years.

They were outshone by the beams from early- warning radar. But the same march of technological progress that made the TV broadcast towers obsolete has had the same effect on early- warning radar.

This massive dish in Puerto Rico can function as a radar transmitter, bouncing a signal off nearby targets like Mercury and the asteroid belt. However, it transmits only occasionally, and in a narrow beam.

If an exoplanet happened to be caught in the beam, and they were lucky enough to be pointing a receiving antenna at our corner of the sky at the time, all they would pick up would be a brief pulse of radio energy, then silence.

Visible light This is more promising. The Sun is really bright, [citation needed ] and its light illuminates the Earth. Both of these effects could potentially be detected from an exoplanet. You could probably figure out what our water cycle looked like, and our oxygen-rich atmosphere would give you a hint that something weird was going on. So in the end, the clearest signal from Earth might not be from us at all.

Heeeey, look at the time. Gotta run. A radio transmission has the problem that they have to be paying attention when it arrives. Instead, we could make them pay attention. If we can figure out how to make a guidance system that survives the trip which would be tough , we could use it to steer toward any inhabited planet. But slowing down takes even more fuel. So maybe if those aliens looked toward our solar system, this is what they would see: There are easier ways to lose a third of a pound, including: This happens for two reasons: One, the Earth is shaped like this: When you stand, your muscles are constantly working to keep you upright.

For a while. Amanita bisporigera is a species of mushroom found in eastern North America. Destroying angel is a small, white, inoccuous-looking mushroom. Amanita is the reason why.

Then you start to feel better. Amanita mushrooms contain amatoxin, which binds to an enzyme that is used to read information from DNA. Since most of your body is made of cells,4 this is bad. Death is generally caused by liver or kidney failure, since those are the first sensitive organs in which the toxin accumulates.

The picture is even more vividly illustrated by two other examples of DNA damage: Some are more precisely targeted than others, but many simply interrupt cell division in general. The reason that this selectively kills cancer cells, instead of harming the patient and the cancer equally, is that cancer cells are dividing all the time, whereas most normal cells divide only occasionally.

Some human cells do divide constantly. The most rapidly dividing cells are found in the bone marrow, the factory that produces blood. Without it, we lose the ability to produce white blood cells, and our immune system collapses.

Chemotherapy causes damage to the immune system, which makes cancer patients vulnerable to stray infections. Doxorubicin, one of the most common and potent chemotherapy drugs, works by linking random segments of DNA to one another to tangle them.

A loss of DNA would cause similar cell death, and probably similar symptoms. This is the period where the body is still working, but no new proteins can be synthesized and the immune system is collapsing. On the other hand, there would be at least one silver lining. If we ever end up in a dystopian future where Orwellian governments collect our genetic information and use it to track and control us.

I got one of your friends to sneak into your room with a microscope while you were sleeping and check. They stimulate white blood cell production by, in effect, tricking the body into thinking that it has a massive E.

Instead, they physically dissolve the blood-brain barrier, resulting in rapid death from cerebral hemorrhage brain bleeding. Plants undo this by stripping the oxygen back out and pumping it into the air.

Engines need oxygen in the air to run. The Sun: To see what would happen to our aircraft on Mars, we turn to X-Plane. X-Plane is the most advanced flight simulator in the world. This makes it a valuable research tool, since it can accurately simulate entirely new aircraft designs —and new environments.

X-Plane tells us that flight on Mars is difficult, but not impossible. NASA knows this, and has considered surveying Mars by airplane. The tricky thing is that with so little atmosphere, to get any lift, you have to go fast. The X-Plane author compared piloting Martian aircraft to flying a supersonic ocean liner. If dropped from 4 or 5 kilometers, it could gain enough speed to pull up into a glide—at over half the speed of sound.

The landing would not be survivable. But physics calculations give us an idea of what flight there would be like. The upshot is: Your plane would fly pretty well, except it would be on fire the whole time, and then it would stop flying, and then stop being a plane. Unfortunately, that air is hot enough to melt lead.

A much better bet would be to fly above the clouds. You would need the wetsuit, though, to protect you from the sulfuric acid. Venus is a terrible place. The picture here is a little friendlier than on Jupiter. Uranus is a strange, uniform bluish orb. It at least has some clouds to look at before you freeze to death or break apart from the turbulence. Its gravity—lower than that of the Moon—means that flying is easy.

Our Cessna could get into the air under pedal power. A human in a hang glider could comfortably take off and cruise around powered by oversized swim-flipper boots —or even take off by flapping artificial wings. The power requirements are minimal—it would probably take no more effort than walking. Judging from some numbers on heating requirements for light aircraft, I estimate that the cabin of a Cessna on Titan would probably cool by about 2 degrees per minute. The Huygens probe, which descended with batteries nearly drained, taking fascinating pictures as it fell, succumbed to the cold after only a few hours on the surface.

If humans put on artificial wings to fly, we might become Titanian versions of the Icarus story—our wings could freeze, fall apart, and send us tumbling to our deaths. The cold of Titan is just an engineering problem.

With the right refitting, and the right heat sources, a Cessna could fly on Titan —and so could we. What is the total nutritional value calories, fat, vitamins, minerals, etc.

How much Force power can Yoda output?

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First we need to know how heavy the ship was. Next, we need to know how fast it was rising. The front landing strut rises out of the water in about three and a half seconds, and I estimated the strut to be 1. Lastly, we need to know the strength of gravity on Dagobah. Wookieepeedia has just such a catalog, and informs us that the surface gravity on Dagobah is 0. Combining this with the X- wing mass and lift rate gives us our peak power output: But telekinesis is just one type of Force power.

What about that lightning the Emperor used to zap Luke? Those Tesla coils typically use lots of very short pulses.

If the Emperor is sustaining a continuous arc, as in an arc welder, the power could easily be in the megawatts. What about Luke? I examined the scene where he used his nascent Force powers to yank his lightsaber out of the snow. The numbers are harder to estimate here, but I went through frame-by-frame and came up with an estimate of watts for his peak output. So Yoda sounds like our best bet as an energy source. But with world electricity consumption pushing 2 terawatts, it would take a hundred million Yodas to meet our demands.

But what state do the largest number of planes actually fly over? There are a lot of flights up and down the East Coast; it would be easy to imagine that people fly over New York more often than Wyoming. To figure out what the real flyover states are, I looked at over 10, air traffic routes, determining which states each flight passed over.

Surprisingly, the state with the most planes flying over it —without taking off or landing—is. This result surprised me. These states have substantially more daily flyovers than any other. So why Virginia? There are a number of factors, but one of the biggest is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. By this measure, the flyover states are, for the most part, simply the least dense states. The state with the highest ratio of flights-over-to- flights-to, however, is a surprise: A little digging turned up the very straightforward reason: Delaware has no airports.

This came as a surprise to me, since California is long and skinny, and it seems like a lot of flights over the Pacific would need to pass over it.

What is the most flown-under state? The answer turns out to be Hawaii. The reason such a tiny state wins in this category is that most of the US is opposite the Indian Ocean, which has very few commercial flights over it.

Falling from great heights is dangerous. A balloon will act as a parachute, slowing your fall to nonfatal speeds. As one medical paper put it. It is, of course, obvious that speed, or height of fall, is not in itself injurious.

A powerful fan could be used to fill it with ambient air, but at that point, you may as well just use a parachute. In , Larry Walters flew across Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by weather balloons, eventually reaching several miles in altitude. On landing, Walters was arrested, although the authorities had some trouble figuring out what to charge him with.

Compressed helium cylinders are smooth and often quite heavy, which means they have a high terminal velocity. This is true of everything from small meteors1 to Felix Baumgartner. The ban- appeal form asked me to explain what task I was performing that necessitated so many queries. One poster compared a fall from height to being hit by a bus. Another user, a medical examiner, replied that this was a bad comparison: The lower legs break, sending them into the air.

They then go over the top of the car. They die when they hit the ground. They die from head injury. But lifting people into space is hard. Barring a massive reduction in the population, is launching the whole human race into space physically possible? To figure out if this is plausible, we can start with an absolute baseline energy requirement: How much is 4 gigajoules? A lot, but not physically implausible. However, 4 gigajoules is just a minimum.

In practice, everything would depend on our means of transportation. This is because of a fundamental problem with rockets: They have to lift their own fuel. We load that fuel on board—and now our spaceship weighs kilograms. A kilogram spaceship requires kilograms of fuel, so we load another kilograms on board. We burn it as we go, so we get lighter and lighter, which means we need less and less fuel. But we do have to lift the fuel partway. The formula for how much propellant we need to burn to get moving at a given speed is given by the Tsiolkovsky Rocket equation: If that ratio is x, then to launch a kilogram of ship, we need ex kilograms of fuel.

As x grows, this amount gets very large. Launching all of humanity total weight: As crazy as it sounds, we might be better off trying to 1 literally climb into space on a rope, or 2 blow ourselves off the planet with nuclear weapons. These are actually serious—if audacious —ideas for launch systems, both of which have been bouncing around since the start of the Space Age.

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The idea is that we connect a tether to a satellite orbiting far enough out that the tether is held taut by centrifugal force. The biggest engineering hurdle is that the tether would have to be several times stronger than anything we can currently build. The basic idea is that you toss a nuclear bomb behind you and ride the shockwave.

If it could be made reliable enough, this system would in theory be capable of lifting entire city blocks into orbit, and could—potentially —accomplish our goal. The engineering principles behind this were thought to be solid enough that in the s, under the guidance of Freeman Dyson, the US government actually tried to build one of these spaceships.

Advocates for nuclear pulse propulsion are still disappointed that the project was cancelled before any prototypes were built. So the answer is that while sending one person into space is easy, getting all of us there would tax our resources to the limit and possibly destroy the planet.

Would this be possible in real life? More on how that randomization works in a moment. In humans, these cells are from two different people.

Stem cells, which can form any type of tissue, could in principle be used to produce sperm or eggs. So far, nobody has been able to produce complete sperm from stem cells. In , a group of researchers succeeded in turning bone marrow stem cells into spermatogonial stem cells.

These cells are the predecessors to sperm.

There were two problems. They said they produced sperm-like cells, but the media generally glossed over this. It turns out the authors had plagiarized two paragraphs of their article from another paper. Despite these problems, the fundamental idea here is not that far-fetched, and the answer to R.

In our simplified version of DNA, instead of 23 chromosomes, there will be just seven. The last one is the sex-determining chromosome. This piece of information is either a stat a number, usually between 1 and 18 or a multiplier. Imagine that your genes looked like this: If you have a number for both versions of a chromosome, you get the bigger number as your stat. If you have a number on one chromosome and a multiplier on the other, your stat is the number times the multiplier.

In fact, other than a low score in wisdom, this character has great stats all around. Bob also has stellar stats: If they have a child, each one will contribute a strand of DNA. But the strand they contribute will be a random mix of their mother and father strands.

Since two multipliers together result in a stat of 1, if Alice and Bob had both contributed their multiplier, the child would have a rock- bottom CHR. Fortunately, the odds of this happening were only 1 in 4.

If the child had multipliers on both strands, the stat would have been reduced to 1. Then the selected strands would be contributed to the child: The child also has a problem: If someone produces a child on their own, it dramatically increases the likelihood that the child will inherit the same chromosome on both sides, and thus a double multiplier. In general, if you have a child with yourself, 50 percent of your chromosomes will have the same stat on both sides. Humans In humans, probably the most common genetic disorder caused by inbreeding is spinal muscular atrophy SMA.

SMA causes the death of the cells in the spinal cord, and is often fatal or severely disabling. SMA is caused by an abnormal version of a gene on chromosome 5.

About 1 in 50 people have this abnormality, which means 1 in people will contribute it to their children. One in may not sound so bad, but SMA is only the start. Each chromosome contains a staggering amount of information, and the interaction between DNA and the cell machinery around it is incredibly complicated, with countless moving parts and Mousetrap- style feedback loops.

In humans, each chromosome affects many things through a variety of mutations and variations. However, if they have the gene on just one of their chromosomes, they get a surprise benefit: These two diseases illustrate one reason that genetic diversity is important. Mutations pop up all over the place, but our redundant chromosomes help blunt this effect.

This brings us to the answer to the original question. A child from a parent who self- fertilized would be like a clone of the parent with severe genetic damage. According to D. There would be a very good chance that the resulting fetus would not survive to birth. Charles had an inbreeding coefficient of 0.

In one incident, he reportedly ordered that the corpses of his relatives be dug up so he could look at them. His inability to bear children marked the end of that royal bloodline. Self-fertilization is a risky strategy, which is why sex is so popular among large and complex organisms.

Life finds a way. These salamanders are an all-female species, and — strangely — have three genomes instead of two. To breed, they go through a courtship ritual with male salamanders of related species, then lay self-fertilized eggs. Archerfish hunt insects by throwing water droplets, but they use specialized mouths instead of arms.

Horned lizards shoot jets of blood from their eyes for distances of up to 5 feet. Throwing is hard. To put that in perspective, it takes about five milliseconds for the fastest nerve impulse to travel the length of the arm.

In terms of timing, this is like a drummer dropping a drumstick from the tenth story and hitting a drum on the ground on the correct beat. We seem to be much better at throwing things forward than throwing them upward. Of course, we could also try this: I will give these heights in units of giraffes: Someone with a reasonably good arm could manage five: A pitcher with an 80 mph fastball could manage ten giraffes: Aroldis Chapman, the holder of the world record for fastest recorded pitch mph , could in theory launch a baseball 14 giraffes high: But what about projectiles other than a baseball?

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Obviously, with the aid of tools like slings, crossbows, or the curved xistera scoops in jai alai, we can launch projectiles much faster than that. Fortunately, Bradstock has, and he claims a record throw of yards.

The speed improvement from using a golf ball instead of a baseball would probably not be very large, but it seems plausible that a professional pitcher with some time to practice could throw a golf ball faster than a baseball. I had to turn it over in my head a few times after I heard it. Look at your hand—there are about a trillion neutrinos from the Sun passing through it every second.

Okay, you can stop looking at your hand now. Supernovae provide that scenario. A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or the detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball? Can you hurry up and set it off? This is heavy.

Applying Dr. And indeed, it is. A paper by radiation expert Andrew Karam provides an answer. GRB B was the most violent event ever observed—especially for the people who were floating right next to it with surfboards. If you observed a supernova from 1 AU away—and you somehow avoided being incinerated, vaporized, and converted to some type of exotic plasma—even the flood of ghostly neutrinos would be dense enough to kill you. Statistically, your first neutrino interaction probably happens somewhere around age ten.

What are the possible short- term effects of this toxin? If a Venus fly trap could eat a person, about how long would it take for the human to be fully de-juiced and absorbed?

First, a disclaimer. Here are some reasons: You could hit and kill someone. It can destroy your tires, suspension, and potentially your entire car. Have you read any of the other answers in this book? Examination of the thoracolumbar X-ray and computed tomography displayed compression fractures in four patients.

Posterior instrumentation was applied. All patients recovered well except for the one with cervical fracture. In the case of the tires, they may absorb it by exploding. The typical speed bump is between 3 and 4 inches tall. The typical sedan has a top speed of around miles per hour. Hitting a speed bump at that speed would, in one way or another, probably result in losing control of the car and crashing. How fast would you have to go to definitely die? If you did force a sedan to go faster than its top speed —perhaps by reusing the magical accelerator from the relativistic baseball—the speed bump would be the least of your problems.

Cars generate lift. The air flowing around a car exerts all kinds of forces on it. Where did all these arrows come from?

The lift forces are relatively minor at normal highway speeds, but at higher speeds they become substantial. In a sedan, they lift it up. The bottom line is that in the range of — mph, a typical sedan would lift off the ground, tumble, and crash. At higher speeds, the car itself would be disassembled, and might even burn up like a spacecraft reentering the atmosphere. Therefore, if you drove a car over a Philadelphia speed bump at 90 percent of the speed of light, in addition to destroying the city.

Go outside with a ruler and check. We can immediately see some problems with this model. We could try to calculate the average visibility across all parts of the Earth, but then we run into another question: Why would two people who are trying to find each other spend time in a thick jungle?

It would seem to make more sense for both of them to stay in flat, open areas where they could easily see and be seen. The optimal strategy might be something totally different. What strategy would make the most sense for our lost immortals? They have plenty of time. Where do you go? To me, that argument seems a little weak. Following the coastlines seems like a sensible move. Walking around the average continent would take about five years, based on typical width-to-coastline-length ratios for Earth land masses.

If you both walk counterclockwise, you could circle forever without finding each other. If it comes up heads, circle counterclockwise again. If tails, go clockwise. Be an ant. If you have no information, walk at random, leaving a trail of stone markers, each one pointing to the next.

Periodically mark the date alongside the cairn. You could chisel the number of days into a rock, or lay out rocks to plot the number. Are they okay? Would it negate the need for a heat shield? Not actual size. Space is like this: You know what, sure, actual size. Space is about kilometers away. Getting to space is easy. The X aircraft reached space just by going fast and then steering up.

But getting to space is easy.

The problem is staying there. To avoid falling back into the atmosphere, you have to go sideways really, really fast. The speed you need to stay in orbit is about 8 kilometers per second. This leads us to the central problem of getting into orbit: Reaching orbital speed takes much more fuel than reaching orbital height.

Reaching orbital speed is hard enough; reaching orbital speed while carrying enough fuel to slow back down would be completely impractical.

When you look at the sky near sunset, you can sometimes see the ISS go past. The ISS moves so quickly that if you fired a rifle bullet from one end of a football field,7 the International Space Station could cross the length of the field before the bullet traveled 10 yards.

In the time it took to sing the first line of the chorus, you could walk from the Statue of Liberty all the way to the Bronx. Using a rocket to slow down carries the same problem: If you want to slow all the way down to zero — and drop gently into the atmosphere — the fuel requirements multiply your weight by 15 again.

But will it always be faster? Cisco estimates that total Internet traffic currently averages terabits per second. FedEx has a fleet of aircraft with a lift capacity of That means FedEx is capable of transferring exabytes of data per day, or 14 petabits per second —almost a hundred times the current throughput of the Internet. Cisco estimates Internet traffic is growing at about 29 percent annually.

Of course, the amount of data we can fit on a drive will have gone up by then, too. There are experimental fiber clusters that can handle over a petabit per second. A cluster of of those would beat FedEx. So the bottom line is that for raw bandwidth of FedEx, the Internet will probably never beat SneakerNet.

What about using a squirrel suit? Would this work? Be Empowered. Be Connected. Please try the following solutions that we hope will help you to resolve the issue. First, please check to see if the PDF opened in another browser window. There is a range of possible reasons for problems with reading PDFs, including various security changes made by software vendors such as Microsoft, different versions of operating systems and web browsers, and problems with the installation of Adobe Reader.

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