[extropy-chat] A sad day

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Tue Oct 11 16:53:55 UTC 2005

On 10/11/05, Robert J. Bradbury <bradbury at aeiveos.com> wrote:
> On Tue, 11 Oct 2005, Russell Wallace wrote:
> > Suppose you stuffed a hundred tons of dynamite down a borehole in the
> middle
> > of a break fault and set it off, would that trigger the earthquake
> early?
> Quite possibly, but I'm unsure as to how you could make sure
> it would be less severe than waiting for a natural "break".
> I assume you are aiming for a bunch of little quakes rather than
> one big one -- and I don't think that much is known about the underlying
> geology to get close to that at most earthquake prone regions around the
> globe.

As another poster observed, the issue isn't the size, but having it happen
at a known time - that way, you still have property damage, but the death
toll goes from 30,000 down to 0.

A hundred tons may also be a significant underestimate of the force
> required. The subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate has produced four
> or more volcanoes within two hours drive of my home. The forces
> involved bring to mind the MC Hammer classic "You Can't Touch This".

*nods* It was a question, not an estimate.

A big earthquake can easily release energy in the hundreds of megatons.
Suppose the trigger needs to be 1% of that; then it needs to be a megaton
warhead. Still a cheap way to save 30,000 lives, but so far outside the
realm of political possibility that there's no point in bothering to suggest
it except to be able to say "I told you so".

But I haven't a clue whether there is any such relationship between the
trigger and the final energy release; was hoping someone who knows more
about geology or mechanical engineering than I do might be able to answer
that one.

You *might* be able to touch it with a nanorobot designed to
> operate at very high temperatures and pressures which was designed
> to either liquify the rock or break in very small areas. But I
> know of no attempt to design such a nanorobot. And the power
> requirements would be formidable. You can power them with 148Gd
> internal reactors but one would need a huge number of surface reactors
> or breeders to produce the required 148Gd. With enough nanorobots
> deployed over enough of an area I think you could eliminate the "break"
> problem. But I'll gracefully exit stage left and suggest this
> might be a great PhD thesis project.

I don't think nanotechnology is at all the right tool for this job.

- Russell
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