Today I’m launching what may or may not be a new series: Dumb Questions. In school teachers often say there’s no such thing as a dumb question, well I’m out to prove them wrong. The idea is this, start with a simple question: How far away is the moon? and keep going further and further down the rabbit hole until we break science. So, how far away is the Moon anyways?
The Moon is about 238,858 miles away (or 385,000 km if you’re not a pleb), but that’s only on average. The orbit of the moon isn’t a perfect circle, which means that sometimes it’s closer to earth, and sometimes its further away. At its closest point, what astronomers call perigee, the Moon is about 225,309 miles away, and at its furthers, called apogee, the Moon is about 251,904 miles out. Another fun fact, our Moon is the only one that doesn’t have a name.
But how far away is that really? If you built a ladder to climb to the moon, how many rungs would it have? Well as it turns out most ladders have about one rung per foot. I guess the people who make ladders are just lazy like that. In any event down a little long division that comes out to 1 billion 261 million 170 thousand rungs. That’s a lot of rungs. But how long would it take to climb? Well let’s say you’re a real cool kid and you can climb two, no let’s make it three rungs per second, how long would it take? Roughly, 420,390,000 seconds or 13 years, 17 weeks, 1 day, and 15 hours…straight. Sounds like an enjoyable way to spend a decade and change.
But maybe climbing isn’t your thing, how long would it take to drive? It would make for a pretty good road trip, well except for the fact that there’s nowhere to go to the bathroom. Ignoring the fact that cars don’t work in space, it would take you 3981 hours to make it, or roughly 165 days. Interestingly enough, that’s about how long the Oregon Trail was, so be sure to pack extra snacks.
I hope you have a good long mix tape, you’re going to need 68,000 songs, or just the full version of Shine on You Crazy Diamond.
But you’re a rich guy, you’d never demean yourself by taking a car. No air travel is the only acceptable means of travel for you. Well, first off, no need to be a dick about, and second, it would take you only 419 hours to get there. Though I feel the need to remind everybody that airplanes don’t work in space. Regardless, that’s more than enough time to watch Con Air two hundred and four times!
But vehicles are over rated, what if you were to be shot out of a cannon? How big of a cannon would you need? Boy oh boy, now I get to use some Astrodynamics! Since I don’t want to spend the next 8 day s solving this problem I’m just going to ignore the Moon’s gravity, which is a totally legit thing that you can do. Basically what I’ve done is plotted a simple trajectory starting on Earth’s surface, and following an elliptical path to the moon. Based on my calculations you would need to be shot out of your cannon at 24,740 miles per hour. By comparison the Space Station travels at a sluggish 17,500 miles per hour. That’s the energy equivalent of 9 tons of TNT. Which is…surprisingly doable. The largest cannon ever built, was built by the Nazis and it fired 7-tonne rounds, although I think those are british tons rather than standard ones? I don’t know the Imperial system is dumb. Point is Nazis on the Moon.
But how many Nazis are there on the moon? Well the Moon has a radius of 1,079 miles, which means that it has a surface area of 14,600,000 square miles. Now there can’t be any Nazis on the light side of the moon, we would’ve seen them already, so we have to divide that by half. The Moon also wobbles a bit which means we can see about 8% more of its surface at various parts of its orbit, so really Nazis can only use up 42% of its surface. Given that they’re Moon Nazis they’ve probably got a pretty sweet set up, I mean, there’s no food or water or air, or internet, but I’m sure they’ve figured some thing out. So I’m going to use the population density of South Korea (1298.64 people/sqmi). That comes out to 7,938,732,480 space Nazis, which weirdly enough, is pretty on par with Earth’s population, if a bit larger.
Clearly there is only one option. We have to blow up the Moon. It’s actually surprisingly easy to figure out how much boom you need to blow up a planet. Basically what you need to do is to provide enough outward explosive energy to counter the inward gravitational binding energy of that body. Thankfully, someone with much more time on their hands has already developed a handy formula for just that.
Give me a second to plug away at my calculator. It comes out to 200 zettajoules. So you know Giga-, like gigabytes? Well Zettabyte is a thousand Giga-Gigabytes. Yeah, it’s a lot. That’s the equivalent of 47.845 TRILLION tons of TNT. You could orbit around a ball of explosives that big. I mean you can orbit around anything, but that’s a ball of TNT 2.4 miles wide! But what am I saying? TNT is old school, let’s get some nukes up in this bitch. Understandably most countries don’t publish their total nuclear blast yield for the world to see. But some website estimated it at 6400 Megatons, which is no where near enough. We’re going to need to increase that by a factor of 7,500. Or we could just learn how to make wormholes.