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In the novel I am writing one of the twists is that story actually takes place on a distant earth except it’s unrecognisable due to it being permanently altered by a long series of devastating wars.

Now part of this is that the location and shape of the continents have been changed, some have been erased from existence and others shattered (example India has been separated from Asia becoming an island). My question is how would it be possible to move or destroy a continent?

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    $\begingroup$ Continents move slowly over the eons. To make a continent "disappear" or move it thousands of miles within millenia would take more than enough energy to boil the oceans into space. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 1 '18 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Some clarification please. You call it 'a distant earth' and yet your question is tagged 'alternate-earth'. Is this a version of Earth in the far future or one in an alternative world? Continental drift takes millions of years to make noticeable differences. If India has separated from Asia this means its continental drift has gone into reverse. India is colliding with Asia in our reality. Weapons powerful to destroy continents will easily end life on Earth. Factors you need to consider. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 2 '18 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ To achieve the effect of moving or permanently altering continents will take very exotic technology not simply powerful weapons. If this scenario is playing out in an alternate-world, perhaps there are technologies that can swap large pieces of the earth's mantle with other alternate-earths. Not weapons in the conventional sense, but they will change continents. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 2 '18 at 4:50
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Structure of continents can be altered by changing sea level, which is more plausible than giant land masses scooting around. Here is a fun and very well done map with high sea levels.

https://www.alternatehistory.com/wiki/doku.php?id=offtopic:world_dream_bank_maps#dubia

high water earth

India is practically cut off by water. A little higher and India would be an island. That website also has a low water world where "space bats have removed 90% of Earths water". Those pesky bats! But it looks cool; check it out.

There is another website with less elegant maps but which lets you crank sea level up very high. Here with sea level up 300meters is your Island India.

http://www.floodmap.net/?ll=50.338547,13.093127&z=4&e=600

300 meters sea level rise

I thought there was an idea posted here somewhere that proposed making sea level come up by raising the ocean floor, possibly with artificially induced volcanoes. Accidental volcanoes is a fine future war sort of thing to happen. I can't find that idea - if someone else can please link it up.

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You want to have a war that can move continents? Sure, it is easy. All you need is a bio-weapon and some cryogenic suspension modules with faulty wake up circuits.

First, use the bio-weapon to wipe out the majority of the combatants on both sides. This isn't really necessary, but it cuts down on the number of hibernation modules you will need.

Then, with the plague ravaging the planet and endangering extinction, have the survivors retreat into the hibernation modules to let the plague burn itself out. Set the timers for a hundred years, to give the corpses time to rot away, but have those timer's fail.

Keep the survivor-sickles on ice for a hundred-million years or so. During this deep time, the continents will move on their own. All signs of the previous civilization will also erode away, giving you a virgin, unrecognizable world for the survivors to wake into.

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  • $\begingroup$ Citizen HenryTaylor the brevity of your answer confused me a smidgen. I had to think a bit to pull the pieces together. Now thinking is a good thing, but I couldn't pull all the pieces together. Yep, continental drift is very, very, very slow. Yep, faulty suspended animation fits. But the part about the bio-weapon still confuses. Enlighten is requested. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 2 '18 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, sorry. I keep doing that. Brevity can be an art form, but apparently not in my hands. Hope the new version illuminates as requested. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 2 '18 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ I am illuminated and enlightened! Once the role of the bio-weapon was made clearer, everything falls into place. A very plausible scenario indeed! This fits the facts of the question & delivers a realistic (more or less) way of achieving the result sought by the OP You have earned yourself plus one. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 2 '18 at 5:19
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Obscene amounts of magic, or bombardment with RKKVs, nothing we've yet built will do the job, even nuclear excavators wouldn't make that kind of mess if you were trying to. Odds are you aren't trying to either, in the course of a normal war that level of wholesale global devastation will hurt you as much as the other guy.

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I would suggest, you refer to the "planet cracker" bomb, mentioned in "Starship Troopers" by "Robert A. Heinlein".

This bomb can peal out a planet's crust, So what you need is something like this, but a little less devastating.

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Well, if you think that all of the Nevada Nuclear Tests couldn't even crack one single state apart, the magnitude of power necessary to split a continent like Australia would, well...literally fill the skies with ashes, cause earthquake and tsunamis the likes of which were never seen -in fact, splitting apart a continent would be tantamount to open the planet in that point, the consequences would be catastrophic as to cause total extinction. Not to mention that you need an amount of power that should surpass of several orders of magnitude that it caused the Chicxulub crater -and that in turn surpassed many times the totality of nuclear weapons on Earth during cold war. You do need a whole new technology to do that, or an unlimited budget on nuclear weapons and a will to use them all 24/7 till desired effect is reached.

And even then, you wouldn't change their location, only their structure. Continental drift is caused by the convention movements of magma under the crust no military technology can replicate that. And, to be precise, said underground movement causes drifts and subductions in the crust -and in turn it is this activity that changes the shape and moves continents. If a God tried and just pull/push a continent, the tectonic placque would just bang against another without any other effect -well, save for the mothers of all earthquakes, that is...

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Not without either requiring or causing extinction-level events in the process. Nobody would seriously do that on a planet they plan on keeping.

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