It's a popular kids tale: the pot of soup that magically produces more and more.

In this story, our protagonist in Tunis is making a big pot of Lablali, the children outside are asking him to make some for them, but he doesn't have enough materials to make more. His wife wishes they would have enough for the kids... Suddenly it's blobbing out of the pot at a fast rate, and won't stop. It doesn't look like it will ever stop. This will be a problem soon. It's now down the hills of Sidi Bou Said and gushing out, polluting the Mediterranean.

What's the best use and best control of the unending Lablali (feel free to use any sustenance dish that similarly doesn't go bad quickly or need to be chilled)?

Since this is WB, I know you're going to ask it. The flow rate is high: 5m3 / second. To avoid this being opinion-based, the correct answer is the one that cleverly uses this for good; is done most efficiently; and addresses containment. Present-day, port city on the Mediterranean.

Capping the flow would be a really bad idea, as it doesn't appear to be stopping.

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    $\begingroup$ I can think of all kinds of ways to harness the infinite mass-flow from perpetual free energy (hang it up high and capture the falling energy ah la water turbine) to drying the stuff out and using it as a burnable fuel. The problem is that the former still has a pollution problem and the later wouldn't happen fast enough to keep up with the flow. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ Shoot it up into space, otherwise the world is doomed. Doomed, I say! $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s - you mean E = Lablai^2? $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM - E=Lablai*c2, no? (this may be the first time in the history of the Universe these comments have been made....) $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ Imagine eating left-overs FOREVER! $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 22:16

5 Answers 5


$$ 5 \frac{\text{m}^3}{\text{s}} * 86400 \frac{\text{s}}{\text{day}} $$ $$ 432,000 \frac{\text{m}^3}{\text{day}} * 1000 \frac{\text{l}}{\text{m}^3} * 1 \frac{\text{kg}}{\text{l}} $$ $$ 432 \text{ million} \frac{\text{kg}}{\text{day}} / 6 \frac{\text{kg}}{\text{day}} $$

That's food for seventy-two million pigs, roughly a sixth of all the pigs currently slaughtered in Europe per year.

Note: I assumed that it takes twice as much soup per weight to feed pigs as dry feed.

So I'd pick a high mountain and let soup flow in a river from the top. Create offshoots so as to allow more room for the pigs to eat. End in a big marsh/lake. Add power generation as well, using turbines to generate electricity. At the beginning, package some of the soup for human consumption. It's enough to just stick a pipe into the flow. You might want to build a building around it to protect the early flow from the elements.

Build a spigot into the building so people can just walk up and draw some soup for themselves.

I'm sure that someone else will come up with a better answer later, but hopefully this makes the scale clearer.

  • $\begingroup$ "I'm sure that someone else will come up with a better answer later, but hopefully this makes the scale clearer." No, this is pretty good +1. Maybe someone can add to it. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'd bet suggesting to switch to pigs as a main food source will be rather unpopular in a predominantly Muslim country $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose they could try goats, but pigs are more commonly kept like that. And of course, they don't have to actually eat the pigs. Tunisia could ship pigs to Europe. Or just sell the pot to Europe and use the proceeds to fund infrastructure in Tunisia. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 16:34

More of an immediate concern: $5 m^3 s^{-1}$ (a flow of a small river) requires, assuming the source is a typical cooking pot with the diameter of $35.58 cm$, a speed of $50ms^{-1} = 180 km\cdot h^{-1}$ of steady semi-liquid jet. The house where it happened is levelled, anyone hit by the lablabi stream is either dead or at least seriously injured (but they are dead anyway, see below). The neighbourhood has to be evacuated and unless there is some natural drainage (e.g. a downward leading valley), the city is finished.

Edit: Consider the thrust of $5 m^3 s^{-1}$ at $50ms^{-1}$, given water density it gives the momentum of $2.5\cdot 10^{5} kg\cdot m \cdot s^{-1}$ per second, which gives a 10kg cooking pot an acceleration of $2.5\cdot 10^{4} ms^{-2}$. The pot will hit the ground, roll and shoot horizontally, achieving a speed of sound in a tenth of a second. Loose, incessant cannon ball inside living quarters does not come even close to the following mayhem. The pot will instantly shatter when it hits a wall or a ground, and the rest of the story depends on what the source will do without being anchored to the pot. The kinetic energy itself being delivered each second is about 6MJ, comparable with the explosion of 1kg TNT every second. It compares well to being hit by sustained antiaircraft artillery.

Other answers covered the potential usage nicely, I'll just add the possibility to use it as a fertilizer. Rather lousy fertilizer, but with some preprocessing the country can become a leading exporter of fertilizers. Since lablabi contains a lot of water, it is even possible to fertilize a nearby desert area without much additional irrigation.

The flow will add to 1% of Earth mass in $3.80\cdot 10^{11}$ years, which means changing Earth orbital parameters is of no concern. Sadly, the lablabi is not useful for a quick terraforming either – given the flow, it would fill Earth oceans in about 8 million years (though Mars or Moon could do with much less water).

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    $\begingroup$ Terraforming via soup is a terrifying concept. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ Better yet is a soup-based rocket engine. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @ThalesPereira Thanks for the hint, I updated the answer taking this into account. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 15:15

You can build a reservoir of it, and use to feed animals - and people for that matter. Since you already have a constant endless flow, if you set it into pipes you will need no pumps to deliver the its boring flavour to where it is needed.

Of course, build turbines and generate electricity from it.

More importantly, build a aquaduct Lablabiduct to take it to everybody's home. Your ducts require maintenance, and you have to pay for the constructions... so, it would make sense to charge for the service. Except the wife is against it, so get a deal with the goverment so they pay for the operation and you can deliver free food.

Futhermore, Lablabi is what everyone needs. It is orgnaic metter, it should be possible to convert it to be used as lubricant, fertilizer or fuel - without the cost of oil prospecting. Soon you will have cars that run on Lablabi byproduts. Lablabi should proably be kept for food, the burn of Lablabi byproducts would contribute to climate change. Also any Lablabi used for industrial products, is Lablabi not eaten. Goverment regulation is needed.

Originally I was thinking that Lablabi could be an export and help economic development of the country. Also that it would quickly imply changes in the labor policy to institute mandatory work hours when peope no longer need to work for food... but the Lablabli flow doens't seem to be enough to allow those conditions.

But once eaten, Lablabi is not gone. Oh, no! far from it! From where is all this mass coming? You are adding mass to Earth!

Thankfully the the bigger - long term - problem is slow enough for the human race to rise and fall. Still, I like the idea of exploring what happen when you add these extra mass to the planet.

If we assume that the density of Lablabi is 1g/cm^3 (like water), the volumetric flow of 5m^3/s is a mass flow of 5000 kg/s. As curious note, this is about 0.74 times the trash production of United States, according to Wolfram|Alpha.

  • Each second: The added mass is 5000 kg. The ratio to current Earth's mass is 1:1.1944397x10^21
  • Each year: The added mass is 1.575x10^11 kg. The ratio to current Earth's mass is 1:3.792x10^13.
  • Each 500 years: The added mass is 7.875x10^13 kg. The ratio to current Earth's mass is 1:7.584x10^10. This is about 0.98 of current Earth's biomass

Increasing the mass of Earth will increase its gravitational attraction. Currently the moon is slowly moving away from Earth this could be reversed. The moon would appear larger in the night sky, the nights would be brighter... tidal waves would be stronger! The rate at which dates become shorter would accelerate.

It doens't seem to become more interesting after millions of years, after about one hundred billion (short scale) years, the added mass will compete with that of the moon. If humans are around they should be looking for space-bound solutions.

If we assume that technological advancement continues as the humanity leaves earth, the Lablabi pot could be at the center of their space habitat. Humankind would become Type Lablabi civilization, no longer constrained by the resources of their home planet, but not yet to the point to build a Dyson sphere.

As humanity becomes a Type III civilization it could resource to throw the pot to a black hole (assuming they hasn't allowed it to become one at that point) or give it to some alien race where somebody's wife makes a wish to feed homeless infants.

  • $\begingroup$ Note: I'm not saying that it would push humanity to Type II level, but that it would be very useful to have during Type I and Type II stages. It ensures a influx of resources. $\endgroup$
    – Theraot
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ If you put the pot on a spaceship, and piped the output out the back, I wonder what kind of thrust 5m^3/s could produce when funneled through a little nozzle at pressure? Could build a generation ship, power it, feed it, and propel it, right up until everyone mutinied from having to eat lablabi every day. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 12:40

On the subject of containing the excess: Why not try shipping containers of Lablali out to oil rigs?.

To extract the maximum natural gas/oil from a particular reserve area you have to replace material as the pressure starts to fall. One of the methods for doing this is by forcing high pressure water into the reservoir, increasing the pressure and pushing gas up towards the surface. Replace the water with Lablali and you have not only a place to store the Lablali, but also food for the workers.

And then a little while later (geologically speaking) you can come back to the same spot and repeat the process!

  • $\begingroup$ I imagine Lablabi is somewhat difficult to pump, containing all those semi-solid chunks. And you have to transport it to the oil rig, presumably using tankers. At this point, you might as well pump seawater into the reservoir, it's cheaper, easy to pump and closer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ I've got industrial pumps and blenders used to chewing up gravel. Also: This was less about what's good for the economics of the oil industry and more about where to put all the damn Lablabi. If I were an oil baron in the North Sea I'd charge an awful lot for my Lablabi disposal service! $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 14:50

Colonize Mars.


If you send that pot up to a colony on Mars, food problems on the red planet become easier to solve. People will have an endless supply of food that can be used to make the initial colonization viable. All of this Lablabi would then be converted to.. er... fertilizer, by the human body, and then it could be used to grow more stuff on Mars. It could even be used directly as a fertilizer material, once the food production chain on Mars becomes well established.

You have also the plus side of introducing a small and indirect, but constant, surplus of water on Mars. Lablabi has a good water content, being a soup-like food, so it would slowly make Mars a wetter place.

You could also use it as a fuel, if you are really desperate.

If you really want to be creative, you can use that flow rate to propel the rocket to Mars, after the take-off! Really, you are gushing a lot of soup by the second, so it could give out a really nice thrust.

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    $\begingroup$ ... and fourteen million years later alien scientists trace the origins of life on Sirius III back to a rain of deep-frozen chickpeas.. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 15:52

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