We Asked a Physicist What Would Happen If Jimmy Ate World
*Hits blunt* Could life end thanks to an emo band with the munchies?
Artwork by the author
Jimmy Eat World is best known for hit songs like “The Middle” and “Sweetness,” but very few people understand the threat they pose to humanity. After all, their very name promotes the wanton devouring of our home planet. Lead singer Jim Adkins’ lyrics are emotionally resonant and their emo-punk-alt-western hybrid rhythms are catchy, but what kind of destructive power does the band harness?
That formula came to me while listening to the American rock band’s 2004 Futures album one Friday afternoon. Appropriately, I was eating an apple as the title track played when my Isaac Newton moment struck. I googled the average holding capacity for the human mouth, the total volume of our planet and divided, completing what might be the most groundbreaking music science ever done. The practical applications of this research are virtually limitless – perhaps we can one day develop a dad-emo based super weapon.
The origin of the Jimmy Eat World name, according to songfacts.com, comes from Jimmy, guitarist and singer Tom Linton’s younger brother, “who had a weight problem.” Frontman Jim Adkins’ younger brother “drew a picture on Jimmy's door of him putting a globe in his mouth, and wrote on it ‘Jimmy Eat World.’” So, that’s kind of a mean story, but it shows us the band has perhaps thought about consuming the planet we live on for quite some time. While this anecdote doesn’t definitively prove intent, this tweet from 2008 shows the band is very much into eating things. Namely, the very same universe we cherish and pollute.
I needed to dig deeper to find out exactly what would happen if Jimmy ate the world. As such, I emailed the band to ask if they plan to eat our blue planet, but they never responded. This seemed very suspicious. Needing closure, I turned to science. I reached out to Dr. John E. Moores, assistant professor of earth and space science and engineering at Toronto’s York University. This guy did work for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency for the Mars science laboratory mission, so he’s definitely smart. Incredibly, Dr. John got back to me and provided an extremely detailed analysis on what would happen if Jimmy (Ate) World. When asked if he has any favourite Jimmy Eat World songs, the planetary physicist said, “I have to admit that I only know the name of the band, not any of their work!” which means everything he told me is the objective truth.
[Warning: large math numbers ahead. Links have been provided so you can count how many zeros are in sextillion. Hahaha, sex. Nice.]
According to Dr. John E. Moores, with a few notations for clarity, Let's say Jimmy eats each layer of the Earth one at a time, rather than digging a big pit. In that case he would start with the oceans and the crust before moving onto the mantle and then on to the core. There's actually more to eat than you would think! While [Devin Pacholik is] correct that the current volume of the Earth is about [1 septillion] litres, the reason that the earth is so small is that the inner layers are buried under thousands of kilometres of heavy rock. That compresses them, making them take up less space than they would otherwise. By eating away at that "overburden," Jimmy would allow those rocks to expand back to their normal volume. So just like how it takes a lot of cake to make a single cake pop on a stick, you need much more rock than a volume equal to the Earth in order to make the Earth.
For simplicity, let's break the Earth up into just the mantle and the core. The mantle has a mass of about [roughly 4 septillion] kg and a density that averages about 5 kg/litre. Under pressure conditions at the surface of the Earth, most mantle materials have densities that average about 3.3 kg/litre (most common is a mineral called olivine, better known as peridot). So once Jimmy got to those materials they'd have a volume of about [1 septillion] litres or about [11 septillion] bites. The core contains the remaining [1 septillion] kg of the Earth and it is almost completely made out of iron, which has a density of 7.9 kg/litre at the surface. Therefore, once expanded, you end up with about [200 sextillion] litres or another [1 septillion] bites. That makes just over [12 septillion] bites in all.
So what happens to Jimmy during all of this? [ author’s note: *hits blunt*] Well if his [that being Mr. Jimmy World,] volume doesn't change, his density would indeed skyrocket. Human beings have a density close to water of about 1 kg/litre so a typical Canadian male, who has a mass of 80 kg has a volume of about 80 litres. Once the mantle is eaten Jimmy would have a density of [55 sextillion] kg/litre and by the end about [75 sextillion] kg/litre or about 75,000 trillion tons per teaspoon.
This would cause Jimmy some problems. For one, that density is greater than the density of a neutron star (up to about [1 quadrillion] kg/litre) in which the nucleii of the atoms that make up the star are all smooshed together with the electrons and protons all forced together to make neutrons. So there's not enough room inside of Jimmy for all the matter that he ate no matter how much you compress it, assuming it stays as normal matter. You can solve that one by assuming that Jimmy is feeding a black hole (in the astronomical sense) in his stomach. That black hole grows as he eats and at the end of the meal the black hole will have grown to about 1.8 cm across.
Feeding a black hole is really the best way because as you go deeper and deeper in the Earth, the thermal energy contained in Jimmy's meals gets greater and greater. The last bite of iron core provides him with an extra 300,000 joules or so of energy as compared with his first sip of water. Luckily we can store that all in the black hole without anything coming out. But if Jimmy doesn't have an interior black hole, he is going to need to get rid of that energy. That means he will start to emit radiation. At first he would feel himself getting hotter and that radiation would be thermal radiation. But as he continued to eat the radiation would get more and more energetic. Before long he would glow a dull red colour before getting brighter and brighter and whiter in colour before he began to emit X-rays and finally deadly gamma rays, killing anyone who got close to him.
Jimmy would have some trouble remaining on the surface of the Earth as he grew larger … as Jimmy grows to a mass greater than 500 tons he would start to crush the rocks underfoot and, not too long afterwards, the Earth would not be able to support the pressure he was exerting, causing him to sink into the interior with nothing to stop him from traveling all the way to the centre.
If he started at the centre, nothing much happens to the atmosphere initially, but you could imagine very bad things happening to the crust as the volume of rock inside the earth decreases. Lots of earthquakes and tsunamis as he produces lots of thrust faults. There are examples of planets that have undergone this kind of "crustal contraction," which creates a global network of fractures. You could even have substantial volcanism if Jimmy eats slowly enough. Eventually, the increase in internal energy due to the compression of materials inside of Jimmy likely renders the entire solid Earth into a liquid.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere would be more and more drawn to Jimmy as his mass increased (assuming he doesn't suck it all down at the start!) and that atmosphere which remained would become hotter and hotter along with Jimmy. Some of the atmospheric molecules would get so hot they could escape into interplanetary space. Others would get ripped apart by Jimmy's ionising radiation. In essence, Jimmy would spawn his own personal aurora.
Artist rendering of the end of the World
Interestingly, the further you get from Jimmy, the less would be the effect. Satellites orbiting the Earth would be relatively unaffected. While there could be some problems early on in Jimmy's meal as he deflects spacecraft that come nearby (just as concentrations of mass on the moon, called 'mascons' deflected early lunar spacecraft), potentially causing them to crash, anything in a high orbit or that survives until Jimmy gets down to the core will be just as happy to orbit Jimmy as they were to orbit the Earth. The moon will continue to orbit Jimmy just as before and all the planets continue on without a change, with only Jimmy making his way around the sun right where the Earth was before.
As for the utility of a world-eating Jimmy, it would be hard to harness any radiation he emits due to the strength of his gravitational attraction. Here at the surface of the Earth, we are 6,378 km from the centre and experience an acceleration due to gravity of 9.81 m/s^2. We'd experience the same acceleration at 6,378 km from Jimmy. However, if we got close, say to 6.378 m (about 21 feet), the acceleration we would feel would be a trillion times larger. You can't build structures out of any material we know that would survive that, so it would be hard even to get close and investigate Jimmy. Of course, that means that anyone who had the power to control Jimmy would have access to a terrible weapon that could likely be used to destroy other planets.
Conclusion: Jimmy Eat World is the most dangerous band in the universe.
Devin Pacholik is terrified, but Bleed American is a great album. Follow him on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.