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Atmospheric Warfare

Yes, this idea really sucks as much as possible! :)
  [vote for,

When I was in the 8th grade I decided I wanted to be a mad scientist when I grew up. At that time I didn't realize there was more fun in simply pursuing Mad Science for its own sake, than in trying to do things, like conquer the world, which are typically ascribed to mad scientists -- but many of the other things associated with the profession sure sounded like fun! (Example: think of Captain Nemo and his supersub "Nautilus" -- what mad scientist wouldn't want a toy like that?) Still, naturally enough for any male rebellious teenager, I had to come up with some kind of way to conquer the world, and Atmospheric Warfare was it.

Basically, you dig a big hole in the ground, and pump it full of liquid oxygen, which you get by sucking it from the Earth's atmosphere. At the time I thought this up, I didn't know just how big that hole needed to be, but it was obvious that if it was big enough, then everyone not properly prepared would keel over from lack of oxygen, after which you (and your prepared cohorts) obviously are in a good position for ruling the world.

Later, I calculated the size of the needed hole: If all the oxygen in the atmosphere was liquified, it would occupy a volume of about 100,000 cubic MILES. That's a hole 100 miles square, and 10 miles deep (or roughly 160x160x16 kilometers). Not something that can be done in secret, eh? So I abandoned the notion, and went on to other fun things.

Several years later, however, I read a science fiction novel, serialized in a magazine, the title of the story was "Earth, Air, Fire, and Water". By the time I finished reading the first page of that story, I KNEW it was going to be about some form of Atmospheric Warfare, and, sure enough, when a sufficient amount of the serial was published, I turned out to be right. This Cold War story postulated a long-distance-subway development company, using compressed air to push underground ("Earth") trains cross-country. On the side, though, they were dumping large concrete pressure tanks ("Air") into the oceans ("Water"), in a secret attempt to get rid of the Commies. The secret got out, and the Cold War heated up ("Fire")....

Anyway, since the HalfBakery so obligingly offers a World Domination category, I find describing that old idea irresistable. There's no doubt Atmospheric Warfare could work, technically (need a shallower/wider hole, though). Practically, though, well, that's another matter altogether. Especially since now you know about it, you can be on the lookout for suspiciously large holes in the ground!

Vernon, Sep 26 2003

Blow Up The Atmosphere http://www.halfbake..._20The_20Atmosphere
Another atmosphere sequestration idea. [phoenix, Oct 04 2004]

Liquid oxygen plants for sale http://www.air-sepa...-oxygen-plants.html
Replaced a dead link. [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 25 2010]

Hydraulic despotism... http://www.sentient....com/hydraulic.html
...moves into the 21st Century. [st3f, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

"A World Out Of Time" http://www.larryniven.org/reviews/95.htm
Here is where I first learned about hydraulic despotism, or "water empires". [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

One of the biggest man-made holes in the ground http://pangea.stanf...s/bingham-pit-2.jpg
There used to be a mountain here (copper ore). But after 93 years of digging with large equipment.... [Vernon, Oct 04 2004]

There are arguments about which open pit mine is the biggest. http://nrhp.mnhs.or...ew.cfm?propertyID=2
The Mesabi range was rich in iron ore. Now it's a hole in the ground. [Vernon]

Another huge hole. http://www.chiptrav...e_grande/calama.htm
This copper mine is in Chile (South America). [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Another huge hole. http://www.chiptrav...e_grande/calama.htm
This copper mine is in Chile (South America). [Vernon, Oct 04 2004]

HAARP overview http://www.geocitie...583/project184.html
Quite freightening, actually. [Tiger Lily, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Captain Nemo's "Nautilus" http://home.att.net...fulli/nautilus.html
It was indeed the supersub of its (fictitous) day! [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Data from MIT for NASA http://paperairplan...ages/physiology.htm
See the stuff about oxygen requirements. [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Science fiction story http://www.isfdb.or...in/pl.cgi?ANLGFEB74
As mentioned in the main text [Vernon, Oct 25 2010]


       <completely US-centric reference, others please move on>Is this what H. Ross Perot was worried about when talking about the great "sucking sound" coming from Mexico?</curopmo>
Worldgineer, Sep 26 2003

       One could also burn a lot of forests and fossil fuels to bind the oxygen to carbon and hydrogen.
FarmerJohn, Sep 26 2003

       You could pump the liquid oxygen up the space elevator and it would accumulate in a quaking ball at the top. No need for any holes or refrigeration device. Then after you conquer the world, pump it back down. But slowly, or your victory cigars will burn really fast in the vicinity of the elevator.   

       But for [V] - you should just develop the gravity waves and take over the world in the honest Bill Gates way.
bungston, Sep 26 2003

       [bung], with the lower pressure of space (like zero), I think it'll be hard to keep it liquid. I guess you could have a giant gas ball in orbit, but I think it would disperse from it's own pressure and interaction. Unless you made a big space balloon, but it would have to be really big.
Worldgineer, Sep 26 2003

       bungston, yes, of course. However, my various Mad Science projects have to be prioritized, and there is one which I currently think is more important, that is sucking up practically all my spare $. I just need to be patient...
Vernon, Sep 26 2003

       [Vernon] where can I sign-up to be a cohort?
Letsbuildafort, Sep 26 2003

       Wouldn’t you have to keep it cold or under pressure to prevent it from turning back into gas?
AO, Sep 26 2003

       Definately. Or under high pressure, but then it would be called a tank, not a pool.
Worldgineer, Sep 26 2003

       I think I sort-of thought about a kind of insulated "floating lid", over the liquid oxygen in the hole -- which does indeed need to be kept very cold. The reason for specifying liquid oxygen is that it is significantly denser than mere pressurized oxygen, so a smaller hole is needed than otherwise.
Vernon, Sep 26 2003

       You need to identify one of those huge methane clathrate-filled undersea caves. You can use the methane to fuel your pump/freezing equipment and fill the cave with liquid O2 as you use the methane. The caves are under lots of pressure and plenty cold, so it would be easier to store the O2 in there. Plus undersea caves are easier to hide.   

       Be very careful when the cave is half full of liquid methane and half full of liquid oxygen. No victory cigars down there.
bungston, Sep 26 2003

       Guys...you all are going to far too much trouble. All you have to do is learn to play the HAARP.
Tiger Lily, Sep 26 2003

       Drink Guiness? ... the other A can get lost ...
Letsbuildafort, Sep 26 2003

       [buddha pest], [let'sbuildafaort];   

       Surely you've heard of the occasional talk of microwaving the atmosphere? By comparison, HAARP makes worldwide weather control sound like charity.
Tiger Lily, Sep 26 2003

       After you and your minions achieve domination with operation "Mega Maid", don't forget to rename the planet to "Druidia".
Laughs Last, Sep 26 2003

       //rename the planet to "Druidia".//   

       She will still be your mother.
Tiger Lily, Sep 26 2003

       letsbuildafort, I had to do a little research before I could properly answer your question. You cannot sign up to be a cohort. The word descends from ancient Roman military structure, and is one of the intermediate sizes, which is about as much as I knew before looking for more info. The reference I found says a cohort consisted of as many as 800 soldiers (and frequently rather less). Since Roman days, of course, the usage of the term has become more generic, but still means a least a fair-sized and close-knit or dedicated group. So, since you cannot sign up to BE a group....   

       Nor, alas, can you sign up to join a cohort, since I don't have one that can be joined. (Not to mention, in the later stages of Roman history, the people who put together military units also had to pay their salaries, and I sure don't have that kind of money!)   

       Finally, the fact is, I don't really want to conquer the world. I just want to get rich enough to have a fancy laboratory and lots of neat Mad Scientist type toys, like maybe my own personal flying saucer...(bungston, that would be a consequence of the gravity waves thing, of course).
Vernon, Sep 27 2003

       Laughs Last, thanks; I had forgotton that the Mel Brooks movie "SpaceBalls" featured something that might be called Atmospheric Warfare. Actually, though, it was really just a matter of greedy thieves...people who wasted their own natural resources, and who think they have some kind of right to waste others' too. Oh -- almost forgot -- the Mega Maid WOULD NOT WORK! A planet's atmosphere is held down by gravity AGAINST any imaigned suction by the vacuum of Space... In other words, Mega Maid cannot create more vacuum-suction than was already there! (So why did Druidia have a world-enclosing shell, and why did the movie make such a big deal about leaving the hatch open in that shell? The shell was to keep the thieves from getting at Druidia's atmosphere! --not to keep it from naturally escaping to Space.)
Vernon, Sep 28 2003

       No match for the Schwartz, gravity is.   

       I had expected this to be an idea about feeding everyone in China baked beans for breakfast.
Laughs Last, Sep 28 2003

       Or… you could build a fusion reactor into an airship. A reactor powerful enough to smash air molecules together into progressively heavier elements until they form Iron (after that you’d have to plug the reactor into a power source). Use this iron as a weapon. Drop it on your enemy while you eat up the atmosphere.
TIB, Sep 29 2003

       TIB, no, that is excessive. The amount of energy produced by fusing a small fraction of the atmosphere to iron would be enough to fry all your enemies....
Vernon, Sep 29 2003

       Folks, I mentioned a "shallower/ wider hole" at the tail of the Idea, because digging a hole 10 miles deep is rather extreme (deepest hole today is a gold mine in South Africa, about 2 miles). However, the secretive would-be-dominator then has the problem of hiding a hole that perhaps is 1 mile deep, but also about (square root of 100,000) 316 miles (509km) square . Where could it be hidden? Perhaps underground! For example, in the U.S., the State of Colorado is about 104,000 sq. miles in size, and much of the state is mountainous and well above sea-level (Denver is nicknamed "The Mile High City"). So, there is VOLUME available underneath Colorado, in which to hide a huge excavation. Now, where to put the dirt? How about depleted/abandoned open pit mines? Lots of people would like to have those eyesores dealt with, somehow....
Vernon, Sep 30 2003

       What if you just empty out the Pacific basin? That oughta hold it. You know, do that thing where you get a big straw, stick one end in the Pacific and the other end out into space and all the water will be sucked out.
waugsqueke, Sep 30 2003

       Another advantage to storing the giant O2 glob in orbit: liquid oxygen is magnetic. You could run an engine like a steam engine powered by evaporation of liquid oxygen in zero pressure and use it to generate an electromagnet in the core of the liquid O2 blob. The beauty of this: it would be self regulating. Too little magnetism and the evaporation increases, revving up the engine, and increasing the magnetism.   

       Plus you could see the blob from the ground with the naked eye. Propaganda messages could be displayed across the earthward side, to facilitate the world domination.
bungston, Sep 30 2003

       It occurs to me that as oxygen was depleted, the energetics of photosynthesis would become more favorable. Those green bastards might need to be dealth with first. In addition atmospheric pressure would decline about 20%. Swamps would bubble furiously, emitting methane. Other gases might emerge from the oceans / earth's crust to take the place of the dwindling O2.
bungston, Sep 30 2003

       bungston, heh, well, the truly Mad Scientist doesn't really need to extract ALL the oxygen from the atmosphere to eliminate all his enemies. Consider Mount Everest, where the atmospheric pressure is a bit less than 1/3 of sea level. The amount of oxygen at that altitude is insufficient enough to be quite deadly for most people, especially if they stay there long enough. So, since the proportion of oxygen in the air at that altitude is still the same (1/5) as at sea level, all we need to do is reduce the "partial pressure" of oxygen in the atmosphere by about 2/3, (and keep it sequestered for a week or so), so that everywhere the amount of oxygen is about the same as what somebody standing on Mt. Everest would be breathing today (or less). Thus, let me shrink the size of the needed hole, for liquid oxygen, to at most 70,000 cubic miles, and not 100,000 cubic miles.... Also, note that by removing 2/3 of 1/5 of the atmosphere, the ordinary total pressure, at any point, only drops by 2/15, or a little more than 13%. This will indeed have some consequences, such as a slightly increased evaporation rate of water, but I don't think that the major things you suggest need to be worried about.   

       I've added a link. Scroll down to the diagram labelled "The Atmosphere". The top part of the graph is a horizontal line showing how people can handle different levels of oxygen at ordinary pressure. Hypoxia starts to happen (without acclimatization) when oxygen percentage (at ordinary pressure) drops to 15%. The limit of acclimatization is perhaps 7%, or 1/3 normal oxygen amount, as just described above, with respect to Mt. Everest.   

       Atmospheric Warfare is far worse than the ballyhooed Neutron Bomb, the alleged "capitalists' weapon" that kills all the people and leaves all their property intact. Fortunately, it really is too vast an undertaking for anybody to be able to get away with it. Whew!
Vernon, Sep 30 2003

       <sigh>< envisioning quasi-humorist, Dave Berry, doing a woman's job, the man's way...></sigh>   

       Ditto, Red Green.
Tiger Lily, Sep 30 2003

       I confess I enjoyed the "baked beans" misinterpretation by Laughs Last. But then, I did try to warn people of the worst, in my own way (its title calls it Warfare, which ordinarily causes deaths, and then there is that subtitle, which has two perfectly accurate meanings)....
Vernon, Sep 30 2003


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