How to Destroy the Earth with a Coffee Can

It's not as easy to destroy the Earth as you might think; evil geniuses everywhere have been trying for years. The problem lies with the fact that the Earth is pretty big (at least compared to you and me) and it takes quite a bit of energy.

Published by Tony Darnell on 20th Sep, 2006

It's not easy to destroy the Earth

Vintage coffee poster

It's not as easy to destroy the Earth as you might think; evil geniuses everywhere have been trying for years. The problem lies with the fact that the Earth is pretty big (at least compared to you and me) and it takes quite a bit of energy to destroy it. There is a way however, to do it with nothing more than a coffee can.

You can easily do this project over the course of a weekend, perhaps on Saturday afternoon. You'll have to figure out for yourself where to spend Sunday.

Before I go too much further, there is a difference between destroying the Earth and destroying life on Earth. It takes much less energy to destroy all life, all you need to do that is block out the Sun or release some kind of virus.

No, I'm talking about blowing the planet to bits. Vaporizing it. I realize completely that by telling you this, I'll lose my membership status in the Evil Genius Guild but in the fine tradition of Make Magazine, I wanted to share this with you.

The problem

Okay, so you've decided that you want to destroy the Earth this Saturday. Good. Let's begin by understanding why it hasn't been done already and what you'll need to do before someone else tries it, say, next Saturday.

To completely vaporize the Earth, you'll need to overcome the Gravitational Binding Energy of all of the atoms that hold the planet together. This amounts to 224,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Joules.

If you are uninspired, as so many evil geniuses are (sorry guys, but you know you are), then you probably went to ThermoNuclear Depot and tried to buy some nuclear weapons to do the job. Stan, the nice guy who works in that department with the bright red vest wearing a button that says 'Get Bent', told you that it would take roughly 107,000,000,000,000 bombs to vaporize the planet (he gets about three guys a week asking for the same thing). He politely and cheerfully sends you to the Special Order department to fill out one of their forms (they don't keep that many in stock, and they are seasonal). Most evil geniuses are averse to filling out forms, so you left.

Here's the math:

224,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Joules per planet divided by
2,100,000,000,000,000,000 Joules per nuclear bomb =
107,000,000,000,000 nuclear bombs per planet.

Of course, this assumes you use the good stuff, the Hydrogen bomb. You'd need a thousand times as many bombs if you went with the old-style uranium kind.

But YOU are not that guy. You're inspired. You're a critical thinker, an early-adopter. You like thinking outside the box (after all, you're a regular visitor to my site, right? That makes you remarkable all by itself.)

The solution

This problem is easily overcome with something known as vacuum energy. No, not the amount of energy generated by a Hoover cleaning a carpet , but the latent energy that exists in absolutely nothing. (DISCLAIMER: Do not even try to mess with the so-called Hoover Vortex Energy. Handling that amount of energy requires special suits and trained professionals at government supercollider facilities. We just want to destroy the Earth here, not the universe.)

What is vacuum energy? It turns out that what we thought was full of nothing, the vacuum of space, is actually a seething volume of matter, anti-matter interactions. These interactions contain a lot of energy. So much so that the number of these matter, anti-matter collisions occurring in a space as small as a light bulb generates enough energy to boil all of the Earth's oceans like a giant teapot.

Boiling the oceans is, of course, a worthy enough goal for many evil geniuses, but we're big thinkers here.

It's the same energy that causes black holes to evaporate, for goodness sakes.

The reason we don't all blow up due to this energy is that the interactions happen very, very quickly, on a timescale shorter than the Planck Time, the shortest possible time interval science can measure. If something happens in a shorter time than this, we have no hope of measuring it.

Since they happen so quickly, the average energy of these interactions remains zero, and we don't blow up.

Of course, some people always have to harsh our buzz, don't they? Many have suggested that this stuff isn't there and have responded with the suspiciously pirate-sounding Trans-Planckian Problem. Don't let that get in your way. Those people are just upset they didn't think of this first.

The trick to getting vacuum energy to work for you is to slow down the interactions so that they occur on a longer timescale. We're not talking about a long time here, just longer than the Planck time, which is only 0.000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,054 seconds. For heavens sakes, how hard could that be?

So the question becomes, how do you delay the interaction between these subatomic particles long enough so we can extract the energy? I suggest distracting them. By distracting the matter/anti-matter particles for a little longer than the Planck time, the energy becomes part of the real universe, the universe that we can measure. Once that happens, we can harness it.

So what's the best method of distraction? Well, there's a lot to choose from here. We could make them participate in one of ProBlogger's Group Writing Projects, or watch really cool YouTube videos, but I've found something better: Photos of Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie
Subatomic matter/anti-matter particles have a thing for her.

After extensive, exhaustive research on the subject, I've concluded that subatomic matter/anti-matter particles really like looking at pictures of Angelina Jolie. And really, who can blame them?

This is a perfect example of a simple solution to a complex problem. Einstein would be proud (and a little embarrassed) and I could care less what Stephen Hawking thinks (this'll teach him for putting out that restraining order on me).

The procedure

This is the part you've been waiting for: how to do it. Well, the first step is to get a coffee can. Since the volume of a light bulb is enough to boil the oceans, I figure you'll need something larger, like a coffee can, if you want to vaporize the planet.

Take the coffee can and cut a small hole in one side (it doesn't really matter if you leave the little plastic lid on or not). This allows the subatomic particles inside to see the picture of Angelina (you can use the one posted above, but believe me, there are WAY better ones). Then, put the picture next to the coffee can and RUN LIKE HELL.

This article was inspired by

Published by Tony Darnell

Tony Darnell Profile Picture

Tony Darnell is the creator of Deep Astronomy, LLC, a company dedicated to sharing the wonders of the universe and providing perspective of our place in the cosmos. For most of his life, Tony has been interested in science communication and education and has dedicated the best part of his life towards that interest. While embarked on that mission, for 30 years Tony has also worked as a software engineer and worked on writing code for telescopes, astronomy data pipelines, image processing and data analysis. His last gig was the goal of a lifetime: working on data from the Hubble Space Telescope.