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RandomMrdan's avatar

What would happen to the Earth if someone blew up a nuclear weapon in the center?

Asked by RandomMrdan (7382 points ) July 20th, 2009

I just got done watching Armageddon…I know it’s a movie, but it got me thinking to what kind of effect it would have on Earth.

So, assuming someone was able to get a nuke to the center of the planet, would it blow it up completely?

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30 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

i don’t think that it would be noticeable anywhere near the surface.

N0name's avatar

I am just guessing, because my knowledge of this field is limited, but I think that not much would happen. There are all kinds of reactions going on deep inside the Earth’s crust that release a huge amount of energy. I think that the energy that would be created by the nuclear blast would be consumed or just transformed in some kind of a reaction.
A simplified explanation, that could maybe be correct.

richardhenry's avatar

Nuclear weapons aren’t actually all that powerful, when you start talking about something like our entire planet. They can cause what we would consider to be extreme damage to the atmosphere, but the damage to the terrain is negligible.

Some nuclear testing is done underground, because the damage is dramatically reduced. If you went a lot deeper, I think it’s unlikely that you would cause any significant damage at the levels of pressure you’ll find down there. The bottom of the mantle is nearly 20,305,300 pounds of pressure in every square inch.

Not to mention the temperature, which would harmlessly melt the entire bomb including the payload, and any container it might be in (no matter how thick or what it was made of).

I stress that I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty certain it’s a no.

sandystrachan's avatar

Things would probable start to happen during the drilling to the center of the earth , then it would blow up during detonation . Or cause a huge volcanic / nuclear explosion that would provide people a great opportunity to get great photographs . Maybe a chunk of the earth would vanish or sink , causing mass tsunami’s and earthquakes and volcanic activity .

Maybe if part of the earth’s crust sank it would cause all the water to rush down to the lava/magma and cause it to cool and harder , that would have a bad reaction to the earth…...

richardhenry's avatar

Remember that North Korea tested a ten to twenty kiloton nuclear weapon underground, and they’re not the first nation to do that by any means.

OH SHIT, ATLANTIS SEEMS TO BE MISSING

richardhenry's avatar

Here’s coverage by the BBC, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. Some Google search results for further reading.

richardhenry's avatar

Remember that Hiroshima was hit by a 13 kiloton bomb, and Nagasaki was hit by a 21 kiloton bomb. There are more powerful bombs, but this wasn’t some piddly test explosion and we’re still here.

richardhenry's avatar

I’m done reading about bombs, this is depressing.

sandystrachan's avatar

@richardhenry I think there would be a difference between the explosion of land/air bomb and under surface of the earth bomb , the force of the blast would have to go somewhere do something wouldn’t it….

richardhenry's avatar

@sandystrachan It’s absorbed by the billions of tonnes of rock.

richardhenry's avatar

@sandystrachan We’ve been testing nuclear weapons underground since the first Trinity test in 1945.

richardhenry's avatar

France have blown up a total of 160 nuclear bombs underground. Jesus almighty.

The US don’t seem to disclose the number of underground tests (or I can’t find it), but considering they’ve detonated well over 1k bombs and 331 were atmospheric, I’d imagine they have quite a number of underground tests on the score card.

France: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/rap-oecst/essais_nucleaires/i3571.asp
US: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Tests/index.html

sandystrachan's avatar

But would drilling to the center of the earth and detonating a huge bomb, or the equivalent size to that in the film make a difference ??

richardhenry's avatar

@sandystrachan A bomb would harmlessly melt well before you got to the center. As would humans and the shaft you’re drilling.

sandystrachan's avatar

They could use a laser , or there was a film where they had to drill there way in some machine to the center of something to blow it up( I think it was earth) . They could copy that if only i could remember the film

richardhenry's avatar

@sandystrachan Imagine you had a bucket of hot soup. Shining a laser at it wouldn’t drill a hole. The center of the planet is so hot that it’s liquid metal.

Imagine somehow the entire Earth was solid and we could drill to the center, the answer is still no. The pressure is so high at that depth it would cause some shockwaves for a couple miles, but nothing we could feel on the surface.

The inner core of the planet you’re standing on is 3,500 miles below you, and there’s so much weight above your head when you get there that a cubic inch weighs tens of millions of pounds. It simply isn’t possible to drill a shaft that would stay open using any material from this planet, and after a certain depth a shaft wouldn’t be possible to drill at all, in the same way it isn’t possible to drill through water or a thick liquid.

The center of the Earth is also comprised of some of the heaviest materials on the planet, including materials that are so heavy they aren’t anywhere near the surface. We’re aware of this because of some very neat seismology studies.

richardhenry's avatar

@sandystrachan Oh, and I think you’re thinking of The Core. They had to detonate a bomb in the center of the Earth to restore the rotation of the core, which was undergoing some sort of menapause and had stopped rotating.

It’s important to note that the core doesn’t really rotate, it’s more of a process of convection—similar to the way hot air behaves in a room, or hot coffee behaves in a mug.

ragingloli's avatar

@richardhenry
and even if it did, some puny nukes wouldn’t be able to make it start rotating again.

richardhenry's avatar

@ragingloli Exactly. This room is cold! I’m going to pop off a cap in this cap gun to warm it up. FAIL

Bluefreedom's avatar

Here is what I got from the Online Nevada Encyclopedia:

A total of 828 underground tests, consisting of 921 detonations, took place at the NTS (Nevada Test Site).

There’s no way to get an intact nuclear device to the earth’s core. The temperature down there is estimated to be 3,950 Kelvin, plus or minus 200, which roughly translates to 6,650 degrees Fahrenheit (3,677 degrees Celsius). Like someone already mentioned, it would melt before it got there and I doubt that it melting would cause it to detonate prematurely. Several things have to happen simultaneously and in a certain order for a nuclear device to detonate.

RandomMrdan's avatar

what about the moon’s core? would a nuke blow the moon up if detonated from the center of the moon?

Bluefreedom's avatar

With the following moon data in mind,

Mean radius 1,737.10 km (0.273 Earths)
Mass 7.347 7 × 1022 kg (0.012 3 Earths)

I think a subterranean detonation at the moon’s core wouldn’t blow up the moon as the surrounding material would act as a sponge and soak up much of the initial explosion, damage, and absorb the shock wave to follow. To have any significant effect, I imagine it would have to be a device with an incredibly high yield. From an article on Wikipedia, it states that “Analyses of the Moon’s time-variable rotation indicate that the core is at least partly molten. If this is the case, it might again be a case of the nuclear device melting before it got to the core making detonation impossible.

richardhenry's avatar

@RandomMrdan No. The moon may be smaller than the Earth, but it’s still too fucking huge to be even scraped by our pathetic high yield nuclear bombs. The pressure at any reasonable depth on the Moon is far far far far far too high to drill a shaft that could stay open or be supported by any material on the Earth or any other planet in our Solar System, not to mention that it has a partially liquid core.

You could detonate a series of high yield nuclear devices on the lunar surface and very little damage would be caused (particularly because the Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere). If you’re thinking nuclear blasts would even be powerful to alter the orbit (even slightly) you’re painfully mistaken.

The Moon is BIG.

andrew's avatar

@richardhenry 13kt is nothing. If you really want a sinking feeling, check out the Tsar_Bomba. The “King of Bombs”. Much, much bigger than those piddly fission bombs.

Here’s a clip of it… wait until later in the clip and you almost get a sense of scale. It’s fantastically horrible.

mattbrowne's avatar

Depending on the yield:

1) Nothing
2) Earthquake
3) Earth blown to pieces

AstroChuck's avatar

If it’s enough megatons then you could blow up anything, however I don’t think any weapon we possess would do too much. How would you go about deploying a weapon in the Earth’s core anyway?

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Greg Bear’s novel The Forge of God deals with the idea of a hostile race destroying the Earth, in part by using a matter-antimatter bomb at the planet’s core. Bear postulated that to do this, you’d need a large mass of neutronium and a corresponding mass of anti-neutronium. You would also have to set off large numbers of conventional, high-yield H-bombs along the tectonic plate boundaries in order to crack the Earth’s shell.

In short – you’d need an awfully big bomb.

Ansible1's avatar

It would set off all of the worlds volcanos all at once, obviously

antimatter's avatar

It only happens in the movies.

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