Digging a hole straight through the ground is a very popular thought experiment. It can teach people a lot about the properties of our planet as well as some fascinating physics. However, drilling such a hole is impossible, and not just because the interior of our universe passes through layers of molten and liquid before meeting the solid inner core. Even on a completely solid planet or moon, the pressure exerted by the deeper layer would be impossible to penetrate.
But armed with our advanced thinking technology, we dug a hole. Our beautiful hole, about 12,756 kilometers (7,926 miles) long, is ready. I’m about to cut the ribbon to inaugurate the completion of the work when I walk by and jump up shouting “Cannonball!” A single tear runs down my cheek. You just jumped to your death.
Some like it hot
Our hole in the ground is a death trap, for many reasons. The first thing that might kill you is temperature. If you’ve ever been to a mine, you’ve probably noticed that it gets hot. The deepest well ever drilled by humans is the Kula Deep Well, which reached just over 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) or about 0.1 percent of the length of our imaginary hole.
The reason they stopped digging was the temperature. Just 12 kilometers away, the temperature at the bottom of the crater reached 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists working on the project did not expect such a value, but it was much higher than what the models expected.
If it’s any consolation, it won’t take long. The journey through a crater is expected to take across our planet 38 minutes and 11 seconds. You’ll be toasted much sooner than you get to the other side.
Because of my grief over your loss, I turned on the time reversal machine (another patented invention in thoughtspace) before you jumped. I’m explaining to you what happened in that other timeline, and I’m asking you to wear a heat suit but not interrupt my party. While I’m cutting the ribbon again, you come in and jump. Despite the suit’s protection, I know you will die again.
This time the killer is stress. You will be crushed by the huge increase in pressure. At sea level, you feel a few tens of kilometers of air above you. In the hole, you will travel thousands of kilometers. It will become air Very compact And so compact that it would experience phase transitions, potentially becoming a superfluid. You will become part of the mix.
Once again, time reversal is triggered. I explain the situation to you, and you point out that if the pressure became too high, we would likely evacuate all the air from the surface of the planet, killing off most life, including all 8 billion of us on the surface. I’m interrupting you to point this out, so I go back in time to the design phase and make sure the hole is under vacuum.
You are now slowly lowering yourself into the airlock. He dives safe from heat and pressure. Then you die. Well, that’s on me. The design has an opening that extends from the outside of your house to the other side of the world, and you bring with you the rotational acceleration you had when you left, due to the Earth’s rotation. But when you move inside the ground, it makes you drift into the walls. At maximum speed. So you will hit the walls faster and faster, like a ragdoll. This must hurt.
We had a good start
The solution to this is the presence of the hole across the Earth’s axis of rotation. After being transported there, you can now safely jump from the North Pole, arriving at the South Pole after 38 minutes and 11 seconds.
You might still die because no vacuum is perfect, so a little air in the middle might slow you down and make you lose the momentum you need to attach yourself to the opposite airlock. This can be fixed with a strong push from the beginning.
Well, that depends on whether I’ve forgiven you for pointing out the dark and horrific nature of my thought experiment.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”