Zero Gravity Day 2015

The following twitter image has been making the rounds accompanied by what appear to be fully credulous reports. Most of the internet has already figured out that the very notion is absolute bullshit but it is amazing what a little Photoshop and a falsified press release can do.

NASA Gravity Twitter Hoax

The stated explanation for the cessation of gravity is an alignment between Jupiter and Pluto, which would actually have a combined gravitational effect on your body comparable to that of your coffee mug. Regardless, let us imagine it was true. Dream with me for a moment as we explore the magical world in which the gravity of earth suddenly turned off and we could float about like astronauts on the ISS.

Actually, let’s think about those poor folks for a moment. Them, along with anything else in orbit would just shoot off in a straight line, no longer being held to the earth by its gravity. They would be lost to space and would probably starve to death, assuming that the sun still had its gravity, as they would then begin orbiting it all on their own without any hope of a resupply. All of our satellites would suffer similar fates and we would almost instantly lose all space based communication.

Down on the ground, you might notice a gentle breeze. That is our atmosphere venting at a pretty staggering rate into open space. At ground level it would be pretty mild as the volume of air beneath you would be small, just enough to help you drift up. Of course your enjoyment of the experience might be hampered by the rapidly falling temperature, increasing difficulty in breathing, and shards of glass.

What? Yes, shards of glass. Its doesn’t take much of a pressure differential at all to blow out a building’s windows, so it is likely that just about every window on the planet would shatter and send those weightless shards of glass tumbling up through the escaping atmosphere along with you.

If you’re a bit higher off the ground, maybe at the top of a steep cliff, or in an airplane if you’re really unlucky, the upward gust of wind would be startlingly strong and would carry you out into space along with the ISS. At least you might get a nice view of the doomed planet before the blood vessels in your eyes burst from the lack of pressure and you are blinded and then, of course, die from asphyxiation.

Gods help you if you’re swimming or out on the water. Without gravity, the surface tension of the water will pull it into a sphere from which there will be no escape. You would need to swim quite fast to break that surface with enough speed to break completely free. Failure would mean that the giant water ball would pull you back inside, trying to engulf and drown you.

All of this is somewhat trivialized, though, by the global vulcanism. Our planet is held together by its own gravity. If that vanished, all of that enormous heat and pressure that sometimes sneaks out through volcanoes would burst forth all at once, like a coiled spring suddenly set free, in a planet-wide shower of rock, superheated gas and magma.

Happy holidays!


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. Great detail; reads like a what-if xkcd entry. Phil would do well to add some of this to his own post.

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