Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
Scientific papers often present interesting theories on familiar topics or new data and analyses that contribute to a better understanding of the world. We're not sure if computational neuroscientist Anders Sandberg's paper (recently uploaded to arXiv) does either of those things, but it is way too original and weird not to respect. Posted with the title "Blueberry Earth
," Sandberg's paper builds on a topic posted to a Stackexchange forum and considers the physics of the hypothetical question:
What if the entire Earth
was instantaneously replaced with an equal volume of closely packed, but uncompressed blueberries?
The first image that came to mind for us was Violet Beauregarde in the classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," only with the entire planet acting as a substitute for the little brat. Sandberg acknowledges that the question is "absurd," but that did not stop him from exploring the topic and reaching a conclusion using real science and a few assumptions. A major assumption made by Sandberg and contributors to the forum thread, according to LiveScience, is that the blueberries would be "big, thick-skinned highbush blueberries" instead of "wild, thin-skinned blueberries." The bigger blueberries would have more air in between them, which would greatly change the outcome of the hypothetical situation. You see, when it comes to berry hypotheticals, it's important to define your terms.
According to Sandberg, drastically reduced gravity would be the first effect of the change for someone standing on the ground at the time. "Instantaneously turning Earth into blueberries will reduce its mass to 0.1274 of what it was," he writes, which would make Blueberry Earth's gravity weaker. Then things would get pretty violent on the juicy sphere. "Standing on the blueberries might be possible in theory, except that almost immediately they begin to compress rapidly and air starts erupting everywhere. The effect is basically the worst earthquake ever, and it keeps on going until everything has fallen 715 km." As if a fruity earthquake doesn't already sound horrible, Sandberg says that the change would also disrupt the atmosphere. "While [the earthquake] is going on everything heats up drastically until the entire environment is boiling jam and steam."
The end result is a world that has a steam atmosphere covering an ocean of jam on top of warm blueberry granita.
So basically the conclusion is that if the planet turned to blueberries, we would all probably die a hot, tart, cobalt death. "One might wonder if this kind of exploration is worthwhile," Sandberg writes in his conclusion. "I believe it is: this is both a pedagogical and amusing way of applying standard planetary science modeling to a system."
Given how exotic exoplanets have turned out, the physics of blueberry earth is actually fairly normal compared to much that is out there.
So a note to exoplanet hunters: if you come across a blueberry planet out there, just scratch it off the list and move on.