On March 22, 2005, Mike Miliard, a journalist from the Boston Phoenix newspaper emailed me asking if he could give me an email interview. I agreed. You can see the article which he wrote here. Obviously it was edited down for the purposes of the article, but I found it a good opportunity to express some personal opinions on the theory and practice of mundicide, so I've decided to reprint the entire thing here, unedited.
Who are you?
My name is Sam Hughes. I'm a mathematics student at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, UK. I'm 21.
Why did you start this site?
HTDTE was originally posted on Everything2.com, which I guess would be best described as a writers' colony. It has (almost) everything: fact, fiction, fiction masquerading as fact, reference works, movie/music/TV reviews, recipes, and, among other things, a whole lot of HOWTOs. I'd been writing various works for E2 for several years when I realised that "How to destroy the Earth" would be a great idea for a writeup, and moreover that nobody else on the internet had yet thought of it. In other words, I saw a gap and went for it. I reckoned it would be a fun way to present a lot of interesting science. It was a success within E2, but since E2's readership is a small subsection of the whole internet, I decided to try to bring the site to a wider audience and turned it into a web page of my own.
Do you personally want to see the earth destroyed?
Absolutely not. Where else would I keep all my stuff?
How hard is it to destroy the earth?
Much, much harder than you may have been led to believe. When you hear environmentalists proclaiming that we are destroying the Earth, you should understand that they are exaggerating. Yes, we may be rendering it uninhabitable, but that's many orders of magnitude easier than destroying a *six-sextillion tonne ball of rock*. The planet has been here for a hundred thousand times longer than we have, and has seen and survived far more extreme conditions.
How did you come up with the many ways in which the earth can be destroyed?
Basic high school science (and some more exotic stuff I've gleaned from physics textbooks over the years) provided me with about half a dozen of them. But those are all I can take personal credit for. Many ideas came from hard science fiction novels like Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey series - though actual Earth-destroying weapons can be pretty rare in hard science fiction since it is actually very, very difficult to do even in theory. The rest were sent in by readers. (One of the advantages of having a lot of exposure is that you have a lot of people to check your facts and provide you with new ideas.)
Which method do you think would be most successful?
I'm so glad you asked! Right now, I think humanity's best chance is hurling the Earth into the Sun (or possibly Jupiter, if it works out to be easier that way). This would involve going to many different asteroids and using rockets to change their trajectories so that they hit the Earth, altering its path bit by bit until it is headed into oblivion. Right now we don't have the technology to divert distant asteroids in this way, but given one to five centuries of concerted effort, I think we would be in a serious position to try to pull it off.
Of course, humanity is unlikely to ever try to do such a thing. In reality, it seems most likely that in the Earth will be swallowed up in five billion years' time as the Sun expands into its red giant stage.
Which would be the coolest to see in action?
Antimatter, and lots of it. Imagine manufacturing a trillion-tonne asteroid's worth of antimatter and then just dropping it on Earth from space. The explosion would momentarily outshine the Sun! Spectacular. Stand well back though.
Do you believe that any average earth dweller has the wherewithal to pull it off? Or would it pretty much have to be an evil genius or mad scientist?
The average human being doesn't stand a chance. You can't knock a weapon capable of slaying a planet together in your garage, regardless of what anybody says. You need access to huge amounts of money, resources and manpower to pull off a project this big. Even an evil genius would have a tough time: just because you can design a doomsday device doesn't mean you have the financial backing to get it built...
Would you feel guilty if someone was inspired by your site and, using the knowledge gleaned there, actually succeeded in destroying the earth?
Not at all. Anybody smart enough to destroy the Earth is quite capable of coming up with a complete method all on his own, he doesn't need my help. If my site hadn't been there, it would just slow him down a bit... sooner or later he'd find the information he was after, and then it'd all be over.
In fact, if all humans had left Earth for other planets by that point, then, far from guilty, I'd actually feel rather proud.
Do you think we really need to try all that hard, or just wait a few years for nuclear holocaust or complete environmental despoliation?
Depends what your final aim is. If you take personal offence at gigantic balls of rock, or find the planet is obstructing your view of Venus, then yes, there is no choice, the Earth has to go. But if you want to wipe the solar system clean of human life, taking the Earth out is unimaginable overkill. There are far easier ways of wiping out humanity, many of which are available right now. Some of these are even in progress.
What happens to your Web site once the earth is destroyed?
Most likely it'd be destroyed along with the Earth, but assuming my site and I both survived... I guess I'd leave it up for posterity. All I'd do is change the little counter saying "number of times the Earth has been destroyed" from 0 to 1. I probably would make another site though, detailing "How the Earth was destroyed". And if humanity had settled on another Earthlike planet by that time, I'd be sure to make a new page, "How to destroy [whatever we decided to call it]"...