If physicists had enough money…

By Phil Plait | December 16, 2008 3:00 pm

… I think some might want to build this.

I think this money would be better spent building a giant magnifying glass we can launch into orbit to simulate a gamma-ray burst’s effect on Earth. But that’s just me.

Tip o’ the cibolla to … my sister.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, DeathfromtheSkies!, Humor

Comments (48)

Links to this Post

  1. Hold on to your pantyhose, this could hurt! « i get pissed | December 16, 2008
  1. Only the ones who got dumped on Valentine’s Day.

  2. If we don’t destroy the Earth, then the terrorists have won. Or something.

  3. My sister sent me the text of this (without the link), not realizing it was the Onion, asking me why I embrace science so much since they WANT to destroy the earth…


    (We don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, so I may be less than charitable to her than I should be, but I always figure that you can’t choose your relatives, and some of them you’d never bother associating with if you had the choice, right?)

  4. This would make for a good episode of Dr. Who

  5. Peter Boulanger

    I read the last sentence, and couldn’t stop laughing. I think it was “into the moon at only half the speed of light.”, that really got me. It sounds so much like what I’ve heard people propose as testing on various stuff. Then they pause, think, and say, “Oh, right. that wouldn’t be good”

  6. @Larian, that’s funny and sad, all at once. :S


    @ Larian LeQuella,

    Whenever I mention to anyone that I have no brothers or sisters (I’m sure you’re relieved to hear that, Phil), I am often told that I have not missed anything!

  8. rob

    i built one of those in my basement. i didn’t think i should turn it on. but hey, if Michio Kaku thinks the risk is small, then i just might!

  9. hale_bopp

    Well, so long as George Bush checks the calculations first…


  10. Michelle

    At 117 billion that sounds like a bargain to me! 😀

  11. Mena

    You know that you may be a big huge giganto geek when you know that Fermi Lab’s director is actually Pier Oddone. This is doubly confirmed if you have tickets to his March 27 lecture about the future of Fermilab. Just sayin’… ;^)

  12. Mena

    Oops, copying and pasting didn’t work properly!

  13. Kurt

    Why the Earth? Why not really set the conspiracy nuts abalaze and smash Saturn into Jupiter? Hey, toss in Neptune and Uranus just for fun!

  14. This reminds me of the folks who want to run the Global Warming experiment by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to see what will happen.

    What…? They’ve already started…?

  15. Quiet Desperation

    Nah. We need Professor Farnsworth’s dark matter engine. You don’t accelerate the Earth into other things in the Universe, you accelerate the Universe into the Earth.

  16. @Quiet Desperation, You make an excellent point. I think, though, that some pig-nosed children may disagree.

  17. Dang…

    I don’t know who’s been browsing my hard drive and spilling the beans to the Onion. Now I’m going to have to relocate to another Universe. Again. At this rate I’ll never get the VLEC operational – everytime I’m ready to turn it on, the crowds with pitchforks and torches come running.

    And they got the first run mixed up – We were going for .25c


  18. Old Muley

    Ah, the good ol’ Onion! The truest news you’ll ever read.

  19. Nasikabatrachus

    I, for one, think this is a great idea and look forward to the VLEC’s activation. In the name of science!

    I do wonder, though, could it produce a miniature black hole?

    @Larian Lequella: since when do we not have the choice to associate with relatives?

  20. Tim G

    I dunno. I hope I don’t give the impression of being anti-science but flinging the Earth around the Solar System and smashing it into other planets seems to pose too great a hazard to me. I think there is a distinct possibility that someone may die or at least get injured. Conceivably, there could also be some localized ecological consequences. Maybe we should scale back a bit and hurl the moon around so that we my better evaluate the risks of using the Earth.

  21. quasidog

    … that is a joke right ? … sorry I am slow. :p

  22. Todd W.


    We could hurl Neptune into Uranus, but you might get a bad case of asteroids.

  23. @Nasikabatrachus, I keep moving, but they keep tracking me down because “I’m family”. 😛 I have a choice I suppose, but they don’t seem to realize that. IVAN3MAN, to be honest, sometimes I think I am adopted.

  24. K

    Nice blog–now The Onion is a source.

    Any interest in discussing the recent unusual activity on the sun–and the resulting effects here on planet Earth? Here’s some NASA & related sites:

    Solar magnetic field is interacting with the Earth’s field in an “impossible” manner: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/16dec_giantbreach.htm

    and a related article: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/30oct_ftes.htm

    Here’s one describing how the Earth’s Ionosphere has dropped to a new low altitude: http://www.physorg.com/news148572797.html

    Here’s a study out of Dallas showing that low solar activity correlates with much cooler atmosphere and the lower ionosphere: http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2008/09/10-003.php

    And here’s a set of summary charts from NOAA with the last chart showing an unusual drop in solar magnetic field–which seems to be correlating with the sustained low, or zero, sunspot counts for the past year or two: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/

    You might just want to consider addressing these because:

    a) they are unusual & newsworthy
    b) they, unlike The Onion, are REAL news items
    c) they address astronomical issues (the purported purpose of this blog)
    d) they have relevance to everybody reading this blog, and
    e) they are being cited by global warming “Deniers” as indications of solar inactivity once again correlating with global cooling trends. These (and more) have made their way into the Senate’s EPW Committe (where Sen Inhofe has called global warming a “hoax”).

    On that theme even NASA’s climate change website is presenting:
    a) data showing a global cooling, or at least suspension in warming, trend, and,
    b) CO2 measures appear to be topping off.

    For that see: http://climate.jpl.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/

    c) and before you jump on the “solar activity is NOT a causal factor” bandwagon note that both NASA and the IPCC suggest otherwise (along with clouds and the UNKNOWN CARBON CYCLE) as being fundamental uncertainties needing further study: http://climate.jpl.nasa.gov/uncertainties/

    also, NASA’s MSFC website has been hedging on this point for a very long time, not rejecting the sun as a GW causal factor AND presenting correlations suggesting that it IS a (or THE) causal factor: http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtml

    It just seems to me that if this blog is to address astronomical matters and dispel misconceptions “better” references than The Onion are readily available. Especially when those matters are affecting public policy such that ANTI-AGW forces are increasing at a sustained rate (and are pre-emptively focusing on anticipated Obama-Administration initiatives):

    Scientists are far from a consensus on GW: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=2158072e-802a-23ad-45f0-274616db87e6

    Addressing GW now is economic suicide: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=f3564f0a-802a-23ad-4929-ab8f9df90b5a&Region_id=&Issue_id=

    And before anybody reading this holds to the delusion that “big oil” and related self-serving industries are sponsoring anti-AGW reporting & so forth, note that the “GW Business” IS itself a very big industry with all the associated vested, and biased, interests; that industry has recently breached the $300 Billion revenue mark as reported by Financial Times, article entitled, “Climate groups’ revenue hits $300bn” by Fiona Harvey, Published: October 7 2008
    FROM: Financial Times, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0c2aa870-94ab-11dd-953e-000077b07658,dwp_uuid=728a07a0-53bc-11db-8a2a-0000779e2340,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F0c2aa870-94ab-11dd-953e-000077b07658%2Cdwp_uuid%3D728a07a0-53bc-11db-8a2a-0000779e2340.html&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Findepth%2Fclimatechange

    And I bet you thought it was just a bunch of nice, objective, sensitive, concerned people trying to do the best thing for the greater good. Ha!

  25. Quiet_Desperation

    Loud? Is that you? Come back to the Desperation compound! All is forgiven!

  26. Dan Veteran

    “The Onion” is to News as an Anti-Vaxer is to Science!

  27. !AstralProjectile

    In Russia, you don’t destroy the Earth, The Earth destroys you!

  28. Joe Meils

    I bet the pre-construction enviromental impact study would be pretty thick…

  29. Quiet Desperation

    In Russia, you don’t destroy the Earth, The Earth destroys you!

    Imagine a Beowulf cluster of Large Earth Colliders.

  30. Gary Ansorge

    Plait? PAging Dr. Plait???
    You mean they made more than one model of the Plaits? Cool!

    Let’s see,,,I’m an agnostic Scottish/Jew, raised by a Catholic as a Lutheran,,,so tight I could build the LHC for a $1.98, but so inhibited by Catholic/Jewish guilt, I’m afraid to be rich,,,AH well, them’s the breaks,,,

    Take it from my Son. Sisters are at their coolest, when they bring home girl friends that are even better looking than they are,,,

    So, what part of satire(Onion) got confused with serious(anti-vaxers).,,and yes, I really like Steven Colbert,,,

    GAry 7

  31. Todd W.


    If you think that Phil is linking to the Onion article as a serious piece, then apparently you missed the “humor” tag under his post. Relax. You seem a bit wound up.

  32. tjm220

    Sadly I don’t think K has a sense of humor.

  33. K is a crank. Cranks have these virtually universal characteristics:

    1. Cranks overestimate their own knowledge and ability, and underestimate that of acknowledged experts.
    2. Cranks insist that their alleged discoveries are urgently important.
    3. Cranks rarely if ever acknowledge any error, no matter how trivial.
    4. Cranks love to talk about their own beliefs, often in inappropriate social situations, but they tend to be bad listeners, and often appear to be uninterested in anyone else’s experience or opinions.
    5. No discernible sense of humour.

    In addition, many cranks

    1. seriously misunderstand the mainstream opinion to which they believe that they are objecting,
    2. stress that they have been working out their ideas for many decades, and claim that this fact alone entails that their belief cannot be dismissed as resting upon some simple error,
    3. compare themselves with Galileo or Copernicus, implying that the mere unpopularity of some belief is in itself evidence of plausibility,
    4. claim that their ideas are being suppressed by secret intelligence organizations, mainstream science, powerful business interests, or other groups which, they allege, are terrified by the possibility of their allegedly revolutionary insights becoming widely known,
    5. appear to regard themselves as persons of unique historical importance.

    Cranks who contradict some mainstream opinion in some highly technical field, such as mathematics or physics, almost always

    1. exhibit a marked lack of technical ability,
    2. misunderstand or fail to use standard notation and terminology,
    3. ignore fine distinctions which are essential to correctly understanding mainstream belief.


  34. Gary Ansorge

    Larian: I think I will save your post to my How to know a Crank File. It’s very pithy,,,

    GAry 7

  35. Sorry, stolen from Wikipedia actually (I am nowhere near that pithy in my natural state)! Well, I added #5 on the list. I probably ought to “vandalize” Wikipedia and add it in there too! 😉

  36. Cheyenne

    world wide web.cyriak.co.uk/lhc/lhc-webcams.html

    Live webcam of the LHC. Not as funny as the Onion, but worth watching for 10 seconds if you want a laugh.

  37. Tim G

    With all those links, K’s comment surely went to a moderation queue. I wonder what the moderator thought upon reading all that.

  38. Offered without comment:-


    (via Pharyngula)

  39. ChazInMT

    Holy Crap NoAstronomer, I about wet myself. Great Link to G.A.S

  40. K, read the archive.

    Plenty of astronomy stories.

  41. Gary Ansorge

    NoAstronomer: A BRAIN smasher? What will brains think of next???(wonder if that will make them bigger???)

    GAry 7

  42. Gary Ansorge

    Addendum: If brains are smashed together hard enough, thay could(for a giggle sec or two) experience consciousness at the Plank length,,,

    GAry 7

  43. Gary Ansorge

    I’m a real fan of the PolyWell inertial confinment fusor. It’s just so danged elegant, I really hope it works as Dr. Bussards analyses said it should. On that note, here’s the latest info on its progress and the plans to move on to a WB8 model,,,Dang, it’s times like this I wish I was rich. I’d sink a few million in the project just to see if it worked,,,hey, I’ve already sent them MY hundred bucks. A small contribution, but if 100,000 did that,,,hey, it worked for Obama.


    GAry 7

  44. George Kopeliadis

    I think that this kind of humor (ONION) to an open audience is more dangerus to Earth than the VLEC!

  45. csrster

    Family, eh? My sisters sent us an International Star Registry “star” as a gift when our first child was born. Given that my wife and I are both PhD astronomers, this went down like a bucket of cold sick. (Other than that they’re not too bad.)

  46. That’s because you’re an idiot Phil 😐


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar