Science with Sam: What if there was no moon?
From lunar lunatics to the idea that it is made of cheese, the moon has inspired more myths than facts. So much so that the Terrans finally sent human explorers 384,402 kilometers to find out if there really was a man on the moon. Unfortunately, they found no evidence of lunars or cheese. But they found rock. And a lot.
Today the moon may appear a bit dull and uneventful, raising the question, does it really need to be there? If, like Sam, you harbor a sinister desire to smash the moon into pieces, then this movie is for you. But beware, you might come away with a whole new perspective. Be careful, it’s time to put the moon back in its place.
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From lunar lunatics to the idea that it is made of cheese, the moon has inspired more myths than facts. So much so that the Terrans finally sent explorers 384,402 kilometers to find out if there really was a man on the moon.
Unfortunately, they found no evidence of lunars or cheese. All they found was a boring chunk of rock.
As we stare at the moon and contemplate the heartwarming rhythm of its monthly phases, you may wonder, what is the moon actually doing? Does he really need to be there? And, what if we had to smash it to pieces?
Formation of the moon
Our planet has not always had a moon. The dominant theory of the formation of the Moon suggests that about 4.5 billion years ago, a Mars-sized boulder called Theia crashed into Earth, vaporizing much, if not all, projecting pieces. of rock that eventually melted into the Moon.
Destroying the Moon could simply be seen as revenge for the chaos Theia brought to our world all those years ago.
Get rid of the moon
But there is actually a very good reason to get rid of it.
Observations of distant objects are often impossible because the moon far surpasses them: it is 14,000 times brighter than Venus, which is the next brightest object in the night sky. Without a moon, we would be able to see much darker and more distant objects in space all year round, without having to wait for the correct phase.
Another bonus is that if we destroyed the moon, it could potentially cause the Earth to have rings. Some astronomers even believe that Saturn got its rings from a relatively small moon that broke, or perhaps from a larger moon whose outer layers were torn off when it fell on the young planet.
If our entire moon were made into rings, they would be much bigger and more impressive than Saturn’s. Although huge pieces can fall to Earth and kill anyone.
So, before we take revenge, it is worth noting a few benefits that our brilliant sidekick brings.
A boon for life
As the Earth rotates, it wobbles slightly on its axis. On some worlds orbiting other stars, this causes extreme seasonal changes. The moon’s gravitational pull moderates the Earth’s oscillation, keeping the climate stable. It’s a godsend for life.
Without it, we could have huge climatic mood changes over billions of years, with different areas getting extraordinarily hot and then plunging into long ice ages.
We might even have the Moon itself to thank for life on Earth. As the moon orbit, its gravity pulls the side of the Earth closest to it more than the side farther away, causing the seas to rock back and forth. We call it the lapping of the tides.
Today, the tides are good for surfers and sea creatures, but in the past they could have provided the spark needed to turn primordial soup – a collection of simple precursor chemicals – into complex life.
Four billion years ago, roughly at the beginning of life, the moon was probably about half as far from Earth as it is now, huge tides came and went every a few hours.
According to Richard Lathe’s theory of tidal life, these tides created the conditions in which double-stranded DNA molecules replicated in each tidal cycle.
This may have created the molecular basis for the emergence of the first forms of life. This theory is quite speculative, however, and only one of many suggested for the origin of life.
Even though the tides are not responsible for the emergence of life, they certainly make life on Earth much more diverse. Along the coast, distinctive habitats have required unique adaptations. This is where you’ll find intertidal spiders, like this one named after Bob marley or the starfish who love nothing more than to force open a mold, eject their own stomachs into the hapless mollusk, and later feast on the digested mess. Yum. They can be weird, but these creatures really appreciate our Moon.
At the end of the Silurian and the beginning of the Devonian, parts of the world experienced tides of 4 meters high. When the tide receded, some fish were said to have been isolated in small pools, and it is believed that this intertidal environment may have stimulated the evolution of the lungs and legs to walk on land.
About 400 million years later, some descendants of these first fish to make a foray into earth developed brains big enough to wonder if the moon was performing a real function.
Earth’s geological mirror
Apollo 11 and five subsequent lunar lander missions saw 12 people explore the moon’s surface to uncover more of its secrets.
In addition to being a phenomenal technical achievement and a massive propaganda victory, these missions have significantly advanced scientific knowledge. Getting rid of the Moon, it seems, would mean getting rid of the best place we have to learn more about Earth’s past.
Today the moon may seem like a dull, uneventful place, but it wasn’t always so. When it formed 4.51 billion years ago – just 60 million years after the solar system itself took shape, the moon was volcanically active, had a crust, mantle, and a core just like Earth, and was just as likely to be hit by a meteorite or 10,000. Everything that happened on the Moon also happened on Earth.
Since then, the Earth’s tectonics and erosion have erased much of its geological history, smoothing out billions of years of violent activity. This means that the moon is the best historical record that we have.
The Apollo missions returned samples with enticing water notes. And in 2008, India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission detected evidence of chemical bonds between hydrogen and oxygen. Other probes followed and in October 2020, NASA announced that it had found water on the moon’s sunny surface, showing that it was not just in cold, shady places. This lunar water could be the key to an exciting future for the moon.
Back to the moon
NASA is already planning to bring humans back to the Moon in 2024, including the first female astronaut to set foot there. Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk both plan to visit with their respective spaceships, Blue Moon and Starship. Meanwhile, China and Russia are cooperating on plans to build a lunar research outpost.
Aside from new scientific discoveries, continued travel from the moon is a distinct possibility. The energy required to send objects from the Moon to space is much less than that from Earth to space. If we ever send humans to Mars or beyond, the Moon seems like a good place to start.
So there are pros and cons to the idea of breaking the moon. What do you think? Keep it for the tides, our mild seasons and a site for space bases?
Or detonate it as a boon to astronomy, to get revenge on Theia, and to decorate the Earth with rings.
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