5
$\begingroup$

EDIT: Question has been altered significantly in terms of design (originally having been a 'what-if'). This should (hopefully) accommodate more grounded and specific answers.

Science often prefers to view the planets as perfect spheres, for the sake of simplicity of calculation. From a scientific perspective, how realistic is such a design?

Some questions that might be used as guidelines for your answer below:

  1. Mathematically, can this be written off as feasible? Would the laws of physics conspire to create fundamentally different properties inherent to the planet than those typically seen anywhere else in the universe?
  2. How would natural processes be likewise affected by a spherical planet? ex. geological phenomena, magnetic poles, and so forth.
  3. What would the lifespan of such a planet be, as a perfectly spherical object?
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a "what-if" type question, which we're trying to phase out of the site. However, this is good material for our blog, Universe Factory. I'll be writing a blog post on this topic; if you'd like to add your input, please do drop by the co-ordination chatroom. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Feb 13 '16 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ No oceans, for one. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 13 '16 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode Nice. I'll be keeping an eye out for it. Do what-ifs have a particular stack exchange community where they might belong, or are they ruled out from stack exchange altogether? $\endgroup$ – Avant Guard Feb 13 '16 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ @KenH. Currently I don't think there is a stack for them. There's a proposal to make one, though, if you visit Area 51. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Feb 13 '16 at 21:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @KenH. You've removed the what-if state nicely, but I'm afraid it's rather broad now... $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Feb 13 '16 at 23:32
6
$\begingroup$

A few thoughts up front:

A perfect sphere is normally thought of as a sphere that is completely seamless across its surface. There are no cracks, indentations, valleys or hills. This would create a world that would exist sort of like this: A perfect sphere of silicon 28 Sphere made of a single element.

Following this idea... The Earth existing as a perfect sphere would mean some very drastic changes:

Plate Tectonics

Earth is not one single element but a diverse collection of many, possibly infinite materials (at least on the more and more micro level) materials. A macro example of this is the Farallon Plate that is now subducted deep into the earth. This process is essential to everything that exists right now and would exist very differently within a world that had to stay a perfect sphere.

  1. Protrusions from the surface...

Without some contour, providing friction and anchoring to a surface, all of these items would be in constant motion, sliding around the surface of the planet like a giant ice rink. Different organisms might arise. Beings that existed as a sort of cloud that could envelop the planet rather than be anchored on the planet's surface.

  1. Internally, assume the Earth is still the same.

Internally it might be, but without some way to move through molten material up through the planet's surface, creating breaks in that surface, how would the process stay the same? Perhaps through a brief quantum fluctuation, where momentarily both the internal surface and the external surface existed and then they switch places?

  1. Assume that said setup is unaffected by natural processes. I'm guessing...

Plate Tectonics and the very nature of the earth would have to be changed. You could have a planet surface that was made entirely of water and the material beneath would be some sort of hydrophobic material, the water on top forming a membrane all the way around and floating above the actual inner core of the planet.

The Planet in Hypothetical

What we have now is a planet with a molten core, churning away. It is made of a hydrophobic substance that is perhaps in a different state of physical matter than we currently are aware of: A kind of supercooled plasma perhaps?

It has to move to retain some of the levels of complexity that you want to exist as part of this world, but the motion of the surface of the planet retains an unbroken surface equilibrium. Water makes up the majority of the surface of the planet. Maybe with thin veins of other some other concentrated material structures running at perfect level with the surface of the planet.

Beings, intelligent and otherwise

As life progressed on this planet it gathered first above the surface, living in a contiguous atmospheric cloud above the surface of the planet. From here the concentrations of material gave off a mild magnetic field and the planet's weak blue sun gave some cold light. These organisms progressed through Millions of years.

They feed off the brief interplay between the mild magnetic field of the planet and the dim light of the stellar body that sits at the center of the solar system. They have just reached the level where they can communicate to each other, a brilliant yet fading pulse. A single conversation takes them 500 years.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ How do you avoid the flattening of the earth due to the fact that it rotates? $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Feb 14 '16 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @J_F_B_M Simple, have no rotation. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 14 '16 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon This is worldbuilding, so we can throw out physics, but within all existing planetary formation models, there will be at least some angular momentum in the dustcloud, or no planets at all. If there's no angular momentum everything just drops into the central star (or starts rotating). so it's not going to be in any universe much like ours unless one calls in magic. $\endgroup$ – Leliel Nov 24 '16 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ With most realistic models and materials, some rotation induced flattening is unavoidable, since there aren't really any materials strong enough to resist the forces involved. $\endgroup$ – Leliel Nov 24 '16 at 19:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.