The sun is not going to explode tomorrow. According to scientists, it’s probably not going to explode for another 5 billion years, give or take a couple hundred million years. But what if the sun did explode tomorrow? What would it do to our planet? How far away would the repercussions be felt? Is there any way humanity could possibly survive? Would it look like a Roland Emmerich movie?
For the last four years, the folks at What If have been using wild hypothetical questions like these to create some of the coolest science content on the web, amassing a following of some 25 million people across six different platforms. Now fans of this award-winning video series will be able to enjoy these epic journeys of imagination without an internet connection, because What If is releasing a book that will turn 100 of their most popular and thought-provoking hypotheticals into gorgeous two-page spreads loaded with mind blowing facts and stunning images.
We’ll get to the question in a minute. But first, let's talk about why What If asks such farfetched questions.
When you think about it, all human knowledge begins with imagination. Without our ability to hypothesize, to imagine new possibilities and consequences, to ask the big questions, we wouldn’t be able to understand the world around us.
What If is a show that seeks to kindle a passion for and appreciation of human imagination. Every episode uses a hypothetical question as an entry point, then takes viewers on an intellectual adventure through new worlds, examining scientific theories in a way that is fascinating and engaging. Viewers get hooked by grand and sometimes preposterous situations that are fun to think about, then learn about real science.
Over the years What If has asked and answered a lot of interesting, weird, difficult, unusual, and unexpected questions. Questions like what if you were the last person on earth? Or what if time travel was possible? Or, you know, what if the sun exploded tomorrow?
Believe it or not, if the sun went supernova tomorrow, the earth would not be completely obliterated. Sure, the side facing the sun would boil away instantly, and the temperature on the other side would instantly become 15-times hotter than the surface of the sun right now. So to answer the question we asked above, yes it would look like a Roland Emmerich movie. And the decrease in the sun’s mass combined with the force of the supernova might knock earth out of orbit and into the black abyss of space. But the entire planet itself would not be annihilated. So that’s a win.
As for humanity, if we had enough time to prepare—and we would, because when the sun does die, it will be a long, slow process that takes place over hundreds of millions of years—we actually could survive the supernova in underground bunkers. About one week after the initial blast melts everything on the surface, the surface temperature on earth would plummet to zero degrees Fahrenheit. About a century after that, the surface temperature would fall to about -100, and the oceans would begin to freeze. But theoretically, if we stockpiled enough resources, humanity could survive below the surface for up to 1,000 years.
What about so-called ark ships? Couldn’t humanity build a bunch of spaceships and outrun the supernova? The answer, unfortunately, is probably not. When the sun goes supernova it will irradiate everything within 50 to 100 light years. So unless we make some pretty crazy discoveries about space-time, there’s no way to get out of that blast radius in time.
That’s hardly an exhaustive discussion of this What If scenario, but you get the idea.
An inside look at this topic from the WHAT IF 100 Book
Of course, “What If the Sun Exploded Tomorrow?” is just one of 100 different hypothetical questions addressed in the new What If 100 book. Other fascinating hypotheticals include What if we terraformed the moon? What if we could open a portal into a parallel universe? What if plastic was never invented? What if aliens arrived tomorrow? What if all the world’s ice melted? And so many more.
The What If 100 book is specifically designed to get people excited about science and encourage creative new ways of thinking about 21st century problems. It also happens to be loaded with tons of cool facts you can use to impress your friends, and it features a foreword from theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, the renowned science communicator and author of numerous New York Times best-sellers. So it packs a lot of bang for the buck. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the science-lover in your life, you just found it!
Digital and hardcover versions of What If 100 are available now. So don’t wait!