How To: Travel to the Center of the Earth

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How To Travel to the Center of the Earth
We know shockingly little about what's going on beneath our feet. Sure, geologists and seismologists have burrowed down some—but if the Earth is a cocktail party, their work is the equivalent of nervous, pre-martini small talk. There are some pretty serious questions left unanswered. For instance, what's the center of the Earth made of—there's apparently some confusion over whether it's a uranium nuclear furnace or a slowly cooling ball of iron and nickel. Like you, we wanted answers. And, in 2003, CalTech planetary scientist David J. Stevenson proposed a way for us to get them. Published in the journal Nature, "A Modest Proposal: Mission to Earth's Core" laid out a step-by-step plan for inter-Earth travel—it was brilliant, theoretically possible, and only briefly mistaken for an April Fool's joke.

INGREDIENTS
$10 billion
1 thermonuclear device, small
1 probe, heavy duty
Molten iron to taste (100,000-to-several million tons)
Gravity

DIRECTIONS
1) Get $10 billion. Surprisingly, this is not the hardest part.
2) Find a nation willing to take one for the team, by letting you blast a 984-foot deep hole in their country. This is where the nuclear bomb comes in handy.
3) Pour in enough molten iron to fill your new crevasse. Hopefully, gravity will now kick in, pulling the heavy metal toward the center of the earth at a rate of about 16.5 feet per second. At that speed, your iron river should reach the earth's core in a week. And naysayers, never fear. According to Dr. Stevenson's calculations, high pressures below ground will reseal the earth after the iron passes by—preventing any awkward uncloseable chasms to hell.
4) Before the flow gets moving too fast, toss in a probe. For maximum effectiveness, said probe should be able to withstand temperatures up to 4000 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures 1000 times greater than the bottom of the deepest ocean long enough that it can reach the center of the Earth and transmit some data back to you. Given those manufacturing standards, this may be a time to go union. Remember, you get what you pay for. And, just in case Detroit has lost its edge, let's go with an unmanned probe. Better safe than sorry.

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October 6, 2006 - 11:36am
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