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So, an alien life-force has laid down an ultimatum, every media outlet on the planet earth received this one message.

The end will come at midnight.

It's ignored, treated as a hoax by just about everyone. Until, small islands at the date-line begin to lose contact, nobody knows what's happened.

It's the weather forecasters who see it first, a massive beam of energy slicing the entire world from north to south. A wave of destruction destroying all animal and human life in it's path, at exactly midnight.

The entirety of mankind mobilises all it's resources to try and stay ahead of this apocalyptic anomaly, to survive by out-running the globe.

So what happens next?

  • Is it possible to mobilise some kind of construction which can keep ahead of the new day?
  • Can humanity survive on a constantly moving existence?
  • We don't know, until the end of day 1, if this destruction will end. If it does:
    • How many people can we save?
    • Who would they be?
  • If it doesn't end:
    • How long could any people survive a 1 time-zone per hour nomadic existence?

Quickly, now, it's already reached Japan.

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  • $\begingroup$ 1) What time is used - standard (entire timezone is instantly wiped) or local (each point is wiped exactly at its midnight)? 2) If there is a polar day, is the area wiped anyway? $\endgroup$ – user8808 Aug 11 '15 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ This is not sensitive to how we record time-zones, it is a beam which is essentially stationary as the earth revolves beneath it. The beam moves at a constant speed. $\endgroup$ – AJFaraday Aug 11 '15 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ Like a planet-sized rotisserie... $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 11 '15 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ Could you just dance around the north and south poles? $\endgroup$ – fho Aug 11 '15 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ @AJFaraday why would you need to move away? Just walk around the (geographic) north pole and behind the big fragging lazor from space ... now you have 24h to sleep as you would like. Maybe bring some seals and breed them for food and raw materials. $\endgroup$ – fho Aug 11 '15 at 15:58
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It doesn't matter if we anyone manages to survive for the full 24 hours even. We would eventually starve to death. Not many people would make it, since we don't have many planes trains or automobiles that can fly fast enough to stay ahead of the sun. Those closest to the 'starting' place have the best chance of getting past the 'finish' line. But food will be difficult to come by if all animals are dead, they will also affect the plants (I assume they lived for some reason) if they didn't live we have weeks before we starved to death. Without animals (including insects) many species of plant will die off. If we only need to survive the 24 hours, we could have a chance by planting and pollinating our food ourselves...

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point. Also, what about microbial life, and it's effects? And deep-sea life? And if all animal life were killed, would oxygen rise to toxic levels? $\endgroup$ – LindaJeanne Aug 11 '15 at 14:28
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I'm not aware of any ships that can cross oceans at the desired speed, which implies that only those who can fly over the atlantic / pacific oceans will survive. And then, fuel will be an issue -- that many airplanes trying to make the same trans-oceanic journey at the same time will be difficult.

So, many die stuck in traffic jams, trying to head west. Many on the western coasts, and in boats off of the western coasts, overtaken. Lots of airplanes that go down in the middle of the ocean: they didn't start with enough fuel to make the full journey, and all the refueling spots have been used up by airplanes that got there faster.

And when those who cross the Atlantic from Europe and Africa get to North and South America, they won't be able to refuel to cross the continent and the Pacific, because the residents of the Americas will have used all the available resources in their own attempts to head west. Similarly, if the attack continues for more than a day, those from the Americas arriving in Asia will find that they have no way of traversing the continent at the required speed.

The only way to survive would be to be close enough to the poles to have considerably less distance to go, and on the ice caps, modes of transportation will be even more limited. And that solution only works if the attack stops after 24 hours -- if it's ongoing, those who survived by being close enough to the ice-caps to keep moving would starve.

In other words, in your scenario, humanity would be screwed.

What if they had time to plan and prepare? Well, I think we'd last a little longer, but not for long. There is no way around the fact that traveling around the globe in 24 hours, regardless of method, will require a LOT of fuel. We'd need to set up robotic fuel extraction, production, transportation, and refueling stations, so this work would continue while humans were elsewhere. This would also require global cooperation to be sustainable, and maintenance would be difficult. Ditto with food. Even if we have custom boats/planes/vehicles fitted with hydroponics labs, they will need a consistent supply of fertilizer in order to stay viable.

So, even with time to prepare, humanity would be screwed. I'm just not able to come up with a way that your scenario would be survivable. If it lasted only 24 hours, then there might be a few dozen survivors near the poles, and a few thousand from the Americas stranded in Asia and Australia. Longer? Everybody's dead, Dave.

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