It's 2012 so…

Here’s an “end of the world” question. If our planet got struck by a large heavenly body, so that it shattered into millions of pieces, what would our last moments be like? Let’s say you happened to be standing in a field, which ended up being in the center of a piece of crust 100 miles across, and the entire piece was ejected into space. We’re assuming that the actual impact was far enough away from you that it wouldn’t be the immediate cause of your death. How long would it take for the air to dissipate? Would microgravity kick in immediately? Would the vacuum of space kill you within seconds? Would some of the larger pieces be able to hold an atmosphere  long enough that people could float around on it for a few hours to ponder their fate?
I’m guessing that those on intermediate sized Earth-pieces would feel a jolt, feel the air pulled out of their lungs, see the sky go black and suffocate. It would be a silent and eery way to go. Unfortunately, if such an event occurred, I’d probably have to retire this blog. Though I might still be sitting at my desk, typing at my computer for a few moments as I float in space.

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6 Responses to It's 2012 so…

  1. Given an object with enough kinetic energy to eject a sizable amount of Earth’s crust into space, we would probably die as soon as the shock wave hit us if we lived in an area that was to be ejected into space.

  2. Any impact big enough to shatter the planet into chunks as you describe would “eject” those chunks at extremely high speed. The sudden acceleration would pulverize even the largest pieces of crust and anything upon them more or less instantaneously. Mere rock (and human flesh) cannot hold together under hundreds or thousands of Gs of acceleration. The impact would essentially reduce the earth and everything upon it to dust.
    It’s important to note that even a very large impactor (like, say, the planet Mars) wouldn’t pack a wallop big enough to blow up the Earth Death-Star style. Such a huge impact would liquefy the crust and blast quote a bit of earth’s material into space, but the remains would eventually coalesce and cool.

  3. destructure says:

    I agree with the previous comments. The shock wave would kill people instantly. The energy in the wave would liquify your innards.
    The next likeliest cause of death would be from inertia. Consider someone in a car that hits a wall. If they’re not wearing a seat belt they slam into the dashboard. Well, that’s what would happen to someone’s internal organs at high speeds. It would also probably rip the vessels loose that supply them blood.
    The next likeliest cause of death would be stroke resulting from the G forces. But given the kind of forces we’d be dealing with I’d be surprised if didn’t blow out our eyeballs and squirt blood out our ears first. haha
    And, finally. the earth’s atmosphere would be swept away instantly. If you tried to hold your breath in a vacuum it would probably damage your lungs. Other affects would include getting the “bends”. You would pass out within seconds.
    Given all these options, I’d say being liquified by the shock wave would be the quickest and least painful.

    • destructure says:

      I forgot to ask what made you wonder about this. Was it the Mayan 2012 end of the world Planet X thing? Because they made a movie about this called “Melancholia” that made me think about it. Very interesting ending. 🙂

  4. jewamongyou says:

    If Earth does get smashed to bits and I’m floating around on one of those chunks, the air being sucked out of my lungs, my eyeballs bugging out and my blood boiling – then I’ll have the last laugh over y’all!

  5. Tulio says:

    Instant death. The G forces and the release of energy would instantly kill you. To shatter the earth as such, it would have to be an extraordinarily large object traveling at a high velocity. It would be the equivalent of literally millions of 100-megaton nukes being detonated at once. Would be quite a sight to watch from the moon, however.

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