Aspiring supervillains take heart: astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says blowing a planet up is relatively easy.
“Ask yourself: how much energy is keeping it together?” deGrasse Tyson told co-host Eugene Mirman on his Star Talk radio show. “Then you put more than that amount of energy into the object. It will explode.”
The scenario, which deGrasse Tyson described as a “physics 102”-level discussion, came about in response to a listener’s question.
“In the movie Star Wars, we see the Death Star blow up the planet Alderaan,” Mirman said, reading the question. “Setting aside the question of how [such] a thing would be possible, what would happen to our solar system if the Empire blew up, say, Mars?”
First, deGrasse Tyson said, any Imperial sympathizer looking to make that happen would have to calculate the planet’s binding energy, in order to determine how much energy it would take to overcome the gravitational forces binding the planet together.
“Now you have a device that can pump that energy into your planet and have that planet absorb the energy, rather than have the energy come out the other side, it will completely destroy the planet to smithereens, entirely,” he explained. “So, that’s how one would go about it.”
At the same time, deGrasse Tyson argued against the idea, since NASA’s Curiosity rover is currently gathering data on Mars’ surface.
“But it wouldn’t affect us that much,” Mirman said. “Our physical well-being, not our mental and emotional well-being.”
“We will continue to orbit the Sun,” deGrasse Tyson confirmed. “Mars will have essentially no effect on us.”
The discussion begins around the 34-minute mark of deGrasse Tyson’s “Season 5 time capsule,” and can be heard below.