Humans have been digging towards the center of the Earth for decades. Hypothetically, what if we were to make it all the way through? What then?

In the time it would take you to order an extra larger everything pizza and have it delivered to your front door you could theoretically jump through that tunnel you’ve dug in your backyard that cuts straight through the center of the planet and end  up on the other side.

Unless you’re cursed with bad weather or a delivery driver running behind schedule, that would be roughly 42 minutes and 12 seconds, give or take a minute or two. And of course, the biggest ‘what if’ factor in this equation: you were actually able to dig a hole directly through Earth from one side to the other.

Drilling into the Earth’s crust is something humans have been doing for a long time, but mainly just to claim the ‘my hole is deeper than your hole’ crown. Russia’s Kola Superdeep Borehole (known to some as the ‘Well to Hell’) is the furthest we’ve currently made it.

Antipode map of the world
This map shows where you would end up if you dug a hole to the other side of the world. Source imgur.

At 7.5 miles (about 12 kilometers) in length, the Borehole is just a teensy bit short of the 7,918 mile (12,742 kilometer) distance we’d need to shovel to drop straight through Earth. It also took Russia 30 years to make it that far. Thankfully, we can toss reality aside for a few minutes here and examine what it would take to make the plunge and the potential repercussions of doing so.

First off, start by creating a protective heat suit that can withstand the Earth’s molten core, which scientists estimate to be upwards of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 6650 degrees Celsius). That’s about 2000 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun, just to give you some perspective.

Take that technology you’ve used to create the magic jump suit and find a way to apply it to whatever you’ll be using to forge the tunnel, since the team behind the Kola Borehole had to stop digging due to their equipment melting – and they only made it 0.1 percent of the way through the Earth.

Kola Superdeep
The Kola Superdeep Borehole in the Pechengsky District, on the Kola Peninsula. Image: Artem Achkasov

We’d also have to eliminate something called the Coriolis Effect from the equation, which has to do with Earth’s incessant need to spin at 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) an hour. As you rocket through your tunnel at speeds reaching 17,490 miles (28,000 kilometers per hour) you’d be pulled towards its sides on an unavoidable collision course.

You can probably imagine the results of that impact, so we won’t get into the gory details here. However, the Coriolis Effect doesn’t occur between the planet’s poles, so that’s where you’d want to start tunneling if you wanted to keep some reality in the mix here.

What would help your travels into the depths would be a vacuum tunnel, which would eliminate any air resistance you’d encounter under real world conditions. Otherwise the rules behind terminal velocity would have you in a weightless state when you reached the Earth’s core and you’d be stuck there, floating. Cool idea for a few minutes, a little more sinister when you realize you haven’t packed anything to eat and you have no way of making it any further.

Your ‘down’ trip would have gravity increasing your speed every second as you are pulled towards the core, propelling your way through Earth until you reached the center. Once there, gravity would begin acting as a buffer against you, making your ‘up’ trip increasingly slower.

As you approached the end of your journey, you’d slow down to the point where you could land safely, if it weren’t for the fact you’d need a spotter to catch you when you made your grand entrance from the tunnel. Otherwise you’d pop up and then fall back into your super hole, heading straight back the way you just came from. Keep repeating that scenario until a friendly neighbor either grabs you or fills the tunnel in.

There’s a long list of factors that need to be taken into account when proposing this vacuum tunnel idea, and it’s a list where reality and the rules of physics that govern our universe don’t allow us to scratch too many items off. But sometimes it can be fun to throw the rulebook out to see what might happen if we could actually something like this off, right?

Story by Jay Moon


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