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What If the Earth Was Inside Out? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Dylan Musselman
Of all the planets in our solar system, Earth is uniquely friendly to life. It's in a habitable zone around our sun, has enough water, and has an atmosphere to protect us from harmful solar rays. It seems like our planet is perfectly set up to support us, but what if everything suddenly swapped? In this video, Unveiled finds out what would happen if Earth was inside out...
Transcript

What If Earth Was Inside Out?


Of all the planets in our solar system, Earth is uniquely friendly to life. It’s in a habitable zone around our sun, has enough water, and has an atmosphere to protect us from harmful solar rays. It seems like our planet is perfectly set up to support us, but what if everything suddenly swapped?

This is Unveiled and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; What if Earth was inside out?

Obviously, the chances of this particular hypothetical actually happening are basically zero… but the concept does reveal a lot about life and why we’re here. The Earth’s surface is around 70% water so, when our world turns inside out, most of what’s pushed to the core will be our oceans. These and the land masses known as continents are what make up the Earth’s crust, a relatively small portion of the entire planet, as it’s only between three and forty-six miles thick.

This crust is divided into tectonic plates that rest atop the Earth’s mantle. The mantle stretches some 1,800 miles down and is formed of superheated rocks that rise and fall with varying temperatures. It’s mainly solid, but in the hotter regions is a thick and gloopy substance. The rising and falling motion of the mantle is what moves the tectonic plates around, which produces earthquakes and, when cracks are forced through, volcanoes. Beneath the mantle the Earth has two grades of “core”: an outer, liquid metal layer surrounding an even hotter, solid metal inner core. This inner core is still 70% the size of our moon, with a radius of 760 miles - meaning we’re still dealing with very large masses even in the planet’s middle.

So, as the Earth is turned inside out, what happens in the centre first of all? Every piece of solid matter that we can see gets compressed down into the planet’s core - pressurized with a tremendous force. Right now, pressure in the core is about 330-360 gigapascals, which is 3.3 -3.6 million Atmospheres. The average pressure we feel on the surface today is just one Atmosphere. Deep-sea divers have experienced pressure of up to thirty-three Atmospheres - but that’s the known limit for human beings. Some fish and creatures at the bottom of the sea withstand pressures of 800 Atmospheres - but even they would be doomed. Forced deep into the core, every living being on the Earth’s surface would be instantly crushed down into minute points - dusty remnants of what they were. And then, after we’re crushed, life on Earth would find itself processed into a kind of metallized soup.

Water undergoes a slightly different ordeal, but the final outcome is similar. What were once the oceans would also be exposed to unfathomable pressure but, seeing as the planet’s hottest parts - the inner and outer core - are now at the surface, the Earth’s centre would briefly freeze into various grades of ice. All too quickly, though, that ice would also metallize into a soupy compound and, over time as the temperatures naturally rise, the new core begins to resemble the old. The ruthless conditions first turn us into dust and the oceans into ice, before turning everything into solid, lifeless metal.

What once was the crust (but is now the core) is surrounded by the mantle above, which is still mostly superheated rock. There’d be less change here than at any other layer of the planet, although the hottest parts of the mantle would now be closest to the surface while the cooler regions would be nearest the new core.

For anyone observing Earth from afar, the most noticeable change would naturally happen at the surface - which suddenly plays host to the immense 5,430-degree-Celsius heat that it inherits from what used to be the core. For the briefest of moments, at the very beginning of the transition, Earth has surface temperatures comparable to the surface temperature of the sun!

There would form at first a bright white shell around our planet, but that colour rapidly changes as the old core is exposed to outside conditions - shifting from white to yellow, orange, red, before finally cooling down to form a silvery, metallic, possibly reflective sheen. Now more than ever Earth really would resemble a marble, or perhaps a plain ball-bearing; a world smoothly coated in a thin armour of iron - with barely a bump or scratch in sight.

Clearly, such a change would render our planet totally unrecognisable. But, perhaps surprisingly, our atmosphere would likely remain unchanged - at least, at first - since it’s Earth’s gravitational pull that influences the atmosphere, and the Earth’s mass wouldn’t have altered. However, all of the plants, trees, and water have now disappeared from the surface… And without them to filter carbon dioxide into oxygen, the oxygen would naturally disappear, leaving behind an inhospitable blanket of unbreathable air - with the surface of Earth now perhaps rivalling the surface of Venus in terms of its un-liveability, especially because that lifeless iron shell would also be blistering hot to the touch. Throw into the equation that Earth’s magnetic field would almost certainly collapse as well, with dramatic changes to the core meaning we’d also lose protection against solar winds and radiation, and our planetary prospects get even bleaker.

Of course, if the switch to inside out somehow happened without systematically destroying everything that walked, talked, breathed and grew on Earth beforehand, then we’d arguably be in a safer spot than ever before. Were the Earth’s core to be transferred to its surface but everything else to remain the same - we’d effectively be living “inside the core” rather than around it - then Earth would exist as though within a protective, metallic bubble. Sure, we’d need an adequate energy source at the centre of Earth to counteract our blocking out the sun, and we’d need a way to regulate breathable air, and we’d need to rewrite everything we thought we knew about gravity… but living inside Earth rather than on it needn’t be all bad - right?

Either way, say you were an alien en route to Earth because you’d heard it was a lush, green and welcoming planet - well, when you arrived and looked out of your window, you’d be sorely disappointed - greeted instead by a cold and unwelcoming shell. But that’s what would happen if the Earth was inside out.
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