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Humans have managed to do the impossible. By combining Russian hole drilling experience, Western capitalism and some ingenious use of carbon nano tubes Drilling Corp Ltd. has managed to create a massive drill. With the drill it is finally possible to drill a hole deep enough to hit the core. Of course since the planet's liquid core is finally in reach it can be pumped up and transferred to home.

What kinds of effects would this process have on an Earth-like planet and the flora and fauna found on the planet? Specifically what would happen during the different parts of the operation: a) the drilling and b) the pumping and c) what kind of end of the world would the inhabitants be facing. Specifically things that can affect a group of adventurers trying to save a dying world.

I believe the end result is a dead, cold planet devoid of any life. Before that: floods, earthquakes, volcanos, magnetic field problems, changes in gravity, pollution.

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  • $\begingroup$ At what kind of rate are the liquids being pumped? The outer core is bigger than the moon, so any pumping is unlikely to have much of an impact on the planet as a whole. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 1 '15 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to the site, you need to devise a way for carbon nanotubes drill with boiling point of 2000℉ to survive the searing temperature of Earth core with is around 10800℉ and that's not factors in the crushing pressure and the crazy distance of almost 4000 miles deep!😰 $\endgroup$ – user6760 Aug 1 '15 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ The scenario you are proposing seems unclear. Ignoring carbon nanotubes not being strong enough to keep the hole open despite the pressure, and not being heat-resistant enough to not melt, how deep and how wide a hole are you proposing? And just what you mean by "core" (see this for reference). $\endgroup$ – hyde Aug 1 '15 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Puny human corporations use carbon nanotubes. Aliens use a spinning loop of negative-mass cosmic string through the planet's core. ;-) $\endgroup$ – pablodf76 Sep 6 '17 at 22:06
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It's worth noting that there's already a technical term for 'hole through a planet's crust into the liquid regions': Volcano. The most likely 'realistic' answer to your question is 'they create a new volcano, it buries their equipment in lava, and they all go home sadder, wiser, and empty-handed'.

It's also going to tricky to pump the liquid to the surface - the pressure's not going to be enough to push iron/nickel that far using suction. You can actively pump it using positve pressure - but that means building a pump that can run while submerged in 4300K high-pressure molten iron. That's going to be... difficult.

But while 'mad scientists create a new volcano and lose control of it' has some definite potential as an adventure setting, I don't think it's quite what you were looking for, so I'll take off my hard-science cap for a bit and break out my emergency unobtanium supplies.


Drilling Corp Ltd's top Russian engineers have developed new, Russian nano-tubes, which are far stronger than the effete Western ones that everyone else was using, and their Western-trained legal department is confident they can keep the case of DCL v Reality tied up in appeals for the next decade; in the mean time, they plan to siphon away Dirt's* core and ship it home to sell at a literally astronomical profit.

The initial drilling process is probably going to be pretty uneventful, on a global scale. It's going to take some very heavy-duty reinforcement to make the process work at all, but once you get past that, it's pretty much just digging a hole. There's not necessarily going to be significant pollution - a lot of the nasty stuff involved in real-world mining is from refining the ore, not the digging itself. (Of course, you can attach as many side effects as you want - there's just no reason to assume they're automatic.)

Long-term, the pumping process is definitely going to change the planet noticably - but it might be very, very long-term. The core of an earth-like planet is very, very big: the liquid outer core has a volume of roughly 1.5 x 1020 m3 - and that's assuming you could keep it at the same pressure as the core itself. If you can't (and you almost certainly won't be able to), every drop of liquid you extract is going to expand even further as the pressure drops. For reference, that volume is:

  • Enough to fill around 470,000,000,000,000 of the largest supertankers ever built.
  • Roughly as much as 9,000 modern deep-sea oil wells would pump if you ran them for as long as the Sun has existed to date (4.6 billion years), assuming that they ran at maximum rate the whole time.
  • So much that if they drill a 1km radius pipe, and pump out the liquid at 100 miles per hour, it would take almost 34,000 years to finish.

No matter how you look at it, this isn't going to be a quick job.

But Drilling Corp Ltd. doesn't care about that, and they're forging full steam ahead. What happens to the planet?

The structure of a planet is far more malleable than you might assume - we're not going to leave any holes in the center, or anything like that. Gravity will pull the rock above the core down, and keep the planet as a solid sphere. From the perspective of the inhabitants on the surface, this means a lot more earthquakes and volcanoes as the crust reshapes itself to match the new, smaller size. It's going to be unpleasant, definitely - but see the above points about this being a very long process. Unless DCL is pumping material out at an ungodly rate, the effects on the surface are likely to be closer to the 'highly inconvenient' part of the spectrum than the 'end of the world' part. The really big changes - seas rising, continents sinking, etc. - will happen slowly enough to see them coming and evacuate. People will move away from cities, and start making buildings that can handle the earthquakes - low, strong and flexible. Coastal areas will be unpopular - too many tidal waves - as will areas near fault lines and other geologically active zones, where the majority of the earthquakes and volcanoes will hit.

Running some numbers, we've extracted a bit over 14% of the planet's volume, which means the radius is going to drop by around 5% - close to 320km straight down. We've also removed around 27% of the planet's mass, so gravity is going to go down to 73% of Earth-normal. The magnetic field is gone, since that was produced by the movement of the core.

Otherwise, the planet looks surprisingly normal. The maps have been rearranged significantly - oceans shifted, mountains risen, continents sunk into the ocean - but the surface climate is driven by the sun, not the core, so that hasn't changed much. Life will still live there, of various kinds. Some (perhaps many) species will be extinct, but the remaining ones will be tenacious, quick to adapt, and very hard to kill - and will almost certainly include humans.

And now that their planet has settled down again, they're free to turn those abilities to something other than mere survival. Like, say, seeking revenge on the people who wrecked their planet in the first place...

*The third planet in orbit around The Star, located in the Creamy Way galaxy.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think we have to distinguish between the Earth's core which was what the question was about, and the Earth's mantle which is what produces volcanoes. The mantle consists of hot, dense, semisolid rock and is about 2,900 kilometers (1,802 miles) thick. The liquid core is inside that. The pressure in the core can be measured at roughly 200 gigapascals. That’s 2 million times atmospheric pressure. Good luck pumping that with positive pressure! $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Aug 2 '15 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK If one assumes that the drillers are able to stabilise a 2,900km hole through the mantle and handle the 4300K temperatures, a pump that can handle 200 gigapascals stops sounding quite so ridiculous. (Also, it's relative pressures that matter most, not absolute pressure - as long as you're not trying to put a human operator inside the pump room, it's the heat and density that I'd expect to be the real problems.) $\endgroup$ – Toby Y. Aug 2 '15 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ I think pressurising the inside of the Earth is a no-no. You'd be inflating it like a balloon. I think you need to say what you are pumping in, in order to create the pressure. Also where are you getting the substance that you are pumping in? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Aug 3 '15 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK Yeah, pressurising the entire core would be completely ridiculous - even on the scale we're already talking about. But you can create a sealed up-pipe, and raise the pressure inside that, to force the column of liquid higher than it would go otherwise - like using a really big bicycle pump. (Which also means you don't need an external 'other substance' to raise the pressure, just some of the core itself.) $\endgroup$ – Toby Y. Aug 4 '15 at 9:20
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1.

Of course since the planet's liquid core is finally in reach it can be pumped up and transferred to home.

This is the part that I doubt. The outer (liquid) core is made of iron and nickel.

Pumping a liquid metal against gravity isn't going to work.

If a pump could produce a perfect vacuum, the maximum height to which it could lift water at sea level would be 33.9 feet.

https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=height+to+pump+water

If you can only pump water 33 feet, you aren't going to pump metal 1,800 miles ( 2,890 km )

2.

The temperature of the mantle is calculated to be about 870 degrees Celsius. The temperature of the outer core ranges from about 4,400 degrees Celsius to about 6,100 degrees Celsius. The temperature of the inner core of the Earth is estimated to be about 7000 degrees Celsius.4 Mar 2005

The melting point of iron is 1,538 °C. If you could pump it, as soon as it reached the mantle it would solidify and block the pipes.

3.

Let's say you overcame these obstacles. Then your technology must be such that you could avoid doing any damage to the environment. You would probably end up with a huge lake of solid iron/nickel.

Edit - As Toby Y. has pointed out, if it got very big it would just sink through the Earth's crust, through the magma and then probably back into the core.

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    $\begingroup$ You can easily pump water to heights of more than 10 meters. You just don't use an atmospheric pump but rather a positive pressure pump. (Well-known example.) For example, to pump liquid iron 3000 km up you need to apply a pressure of about 2.5 million atmospheres. And you can of course pump in stages, for example you could use 25 stages to reduce the needed pressure to only 5 hundred thousand atmospheres. And you can heat the pipes to keep the iron molten. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 6 '17 at 22:16
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In the first stage of drilling the answer is: Nothing

Drilling alone has no side effects except for what to do with the extracted material. Gotta dump that lava somewhere.

Now at the same time if they botch something during the drilling of the mantle then congrats they have effectively created a super volcano.

In the second stage of extracting the core the answer initially is: Nothing

The core is so massive that even if they extracted it like oil out of a new well, it would take hundreds of years for any effect to occur. Now if they accelerate extraction by adding more wells you would see one or two things in varying orders:

  • as the core shrinks and mass is added to the surface, subduction zones would be strained and pushed resulting in earthquakes.

  • The Earths liquid metal core is responsible for the magnetosphere which protects us from the suns more destructive attributes. As the core shrinks so too would its strength (basically the movie 'Core'). Results:global Auroras, magnetic events, extreme temperature spikes, and eventually our atmosphere being stripped from our planet.

There currently is no exact math to predict in what order or timeline these events would take as we still dont KNOW enough about our core and how it generates the magnetosphere.

There is one other aspect to this, say they keep pumping as the volume of the core decrease to the point that it strains the subduction zones enough to cause earthquakes. Eventually continents will begin to move, and as your impossible wells are indestructible they would effectively behave like string through a block of clay where the continental plate is the clay. This gash would result in a super volcano directly adjacent to your well, having created a direct path from the surface to the mantle.

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