Tampa Bay Times, January 2006

On January 26, 2006, Matt Nelson from the Tampa Bay Times, a Florida newspaper, asked if I could give him an interview as well. The original article is no longer online, but you can find a copy of it here. Here's the original interview:

  • Name, age, location, where do you go to school and what do you do for money in your spare time when not devising ways for the Earth to be destroyed.

    My name is Sam Hughes and I am 22 years old. I live in Nottingham, UK. I am a graduate in Mathematics from Cambridge University, and currently drifting through a variety of temp jobs en route (hopefully) to a career in software development.

  • What inspired you to come up with ways to destroy the Earth and create a Web site about it?

    I expect a healthy diet of hard science fiction novels (Asimov, Clark) while I was growing up had a lot to do with it, but the idea of writing a HOWTO for destroying the Earth was really just a momentary flash of inspiration. I knew I had to write the article and put it online the moment I came up with title - well, after a quick Google search to make sure nobody had already written it.

    I think my interest in the subject is very similar to the mysterious force which drives other people to blow up grapes in microwaves. Destruction is fun.

  • How did you come up with your scientific principles?

    None of the *science* is really mine. All I've done is used my imagination in applying theories that already exist.

    The simplest half-dozen or so ideas - drop the Earth into the Sun and so on - came from a basic high school science education. Ideas beyond that were mainly added after the page began to gain momentum and other people began suggesting new things to me. A good deal of credit must go to the many, many people who have sent me ideas since the article was first written.

    Surprisingly few methods come from popular media - things like the Death Star are, more often than not, pure fantasy, with no real science behind them.

  • Wow. I saw your story on Livescience.com. That sounds slightly prestigious. Have you received any other notoriety? What do you peers and parents think? What has other people said? Any top scientific minds talk to you about your research?

    HTDTE has been featured in about half a dozen paper periodicals (not counting this one) and linked on an uncountable number of websites. I've received a tremendous amount of positive (and usually constructive) feedback from all over. I've not had the pleasure of meeting any "proper" scientists (yet) but I've been flattered to be described as "the world authority on destroying the Earth". Although, as far as I know, I'm the *only* authority on destroying the Earth...

  • I see you say gay marriage cannot destroy the Earth. Are you trying to make a tongue and cheek political statement?

    A while back I was searching the internet for new ideas for ways to destroy the Earth. Here is the page I stumbled across: atheism.about.com/b/a/121369.htm

    Basically, some time in October 2004 a Conservative American called James Dobson remarked that "Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth." Now, from a strictly scientific point of view, gay marriage *can't* destroy the Earth. So I felt I should probably address the issue in my article.

    That, *and* I wanted to make a tongue-in-cheek political statement.

    I was a little uncertain about putting the line in to begin with, but not because of potential controversy; I just wasn't sure if it was funny enough. It seems like I made the right decision leaving it in - it's one of the most quoted lines.

  • Can terrorists use your site for evil purposes? If you are familiar with the show '24' from the States, can Jack Bauer and his Counter Terrorist Unit have the power to stop them? (Sorry my editor made me ask that one).

    What terrorist would want to destroy the Earth? Last time I checked, all known terrorists lived *on* Earth. Anyway, they could try, but they couldn't get very far. All the methods described require technology hundreds of years more advanced than anything we currently have - plus hundreds of years of continuous effort by a decent percentage of the entire human race to put into practice. You can NOT knock a doomsday device together in a cave in Afghanistan. Or a warehouse in Los Angeles.

    Even if they did try, Jack Bauer would stop them, because Jack Bauer is omnipotent.

  • How hard is it to destroy the Earth? I see you use feasibility ratings.

    Destroying the Earth takes more energy than has been generated by all of humanity, EVER. Take a modern nuclear power plant and run it constantly for a million billion years. Then you'll be just under halfway there. So right now: it's absolutely impossible. In a thousand years' time, if we're not all dead: maaaaaaybe...

    Feasibility ratings are relative, approximate, and highly subjective. A higher feasibility rating means a method is more likely to eventually work, but not much else. Only the 10s actually stand a realistic chance of occurring.

  • What's next for the great Sam Hughes? And anything I failed to ask that you would like to comment on?

    In between interviewing for jobs in the world of IT I am currently spending most of my time adding new content to my website, qntm.org, which contains an eclectic variety of essays of mine, of which HTDTE is merely the most famous. I've spent more than two years trying to think of an idea as contagious and entertaining as HTDTE, but it seems like lightning only strikes once.

    I often quietly dream of turning HTDTE into a television documentary and/or a full-length book, but neither of these projects are much more than wishful thinking thus far.