Most of us shudder at the thought of dying in a plane crash or falling from a tall building – but those are actually pretty easy.
What about if you stuck your hand into the beams of the Large Hadron Collider?
Two scientists at San Francisco’s Exploratorium have spent years calculating some truly bizarre (and horrifying) ways to die.
Paul Doherty and Cody Cassidy revealed the gruesome details in a Reddit question and answer session this week.
The ‘bone-eating snot flower’ of the Mariana Trench
What would happen to you at the deepest place on Earth – the bottom of the Mariana trench?
Doherty says, ‘Fortunately you’re mostly water, and water is incompressible. So you would retain your basic human shape.
‘The air pockets inside you, namely in your nasal cavity, throat and chest, would be a problem though.
‘Those would collapse inward…Because you wouldn’t have any air, you wouldn’t float to the surface and you would likely stay at the bottom to be consumed by the bone-eating snot flower, which usually eats whale bones but would probably make an exception in this case.’
If you fell into a neutron star
A neutron star is the collapsed core of a large star – a small, dense object a few miles wide, but with more mass than our Sun.
So what would happen if you fell into one?
Doherty says, ‘You’ll probably be killed by the radiation produced as matter falls into the neutron star on the way in, and certainly at a close distance of one mile.
But the gravity and magnetism would also have an impact, Doherty warns.
‘This means if your head is pointed toward the neutron star it will be tugged toward the star much more strongly than your feet and this tidal force will rip you apart.’
Neutron stars are also hugely magnetic – billions of times stronger than any magnet on Earth.
‘At those levels of magnetism your atoms are distorted into thin cigars and all the bonds between atoms that make up the molecules in your body are broken’.
Your organs falling out of your body in a lift
It’s one of those questions which people discuss over a few drinks – what’s the best way to survive in a falling lift?
Doherty has the answer – it’s to spread yourself across the floor, as ‘laying flat on your back is the best way to spread out the G forces evenly through your body’.
The worst thing to do is to continue standing up, as there’s a risk your organs will continue to travel downwards, even if your body stops.
That gets messy, Doherty says.
Putting your hand into the Large Hadron Collider’s beam
How do we know what happens to you if you put your hand into the beam of a particle accelerator?
Simple: because someone has already done it.
Soviet scientist Anatoli Bugorski was hit in the head by the beam of a particle accelerator in 1978, while checking that the beam was on.
‘Bugorski’s accelerator was 100 less times as powerful than the LHC, and it was also only a single pulse, while the LHC is a machine gun’, said Dr Doherty.
‘The beam paralyzed one side of Anatoli Bugorki’s face. As a result now many years later one side of his face is smooth and unwrinkled while the other side has aged by decades.
‘But since Bugorski nearly died from radiation poisoning, we think a hit from the LHC would be lethal’
If you fell through the centre of the Earth
It’s something children are fascinated by – what would happen if you fell right through the centre of the Earth?
Sadly, the result would be a little more gruesome than it is in children’s books.
Doherty says, ‘The pressure and density of the air starts out doubling every 15,000 feet of depth (3 miles) so after 10 doublings at 15,000 feet and 30 miles the air is as dense as water and you sink no further.’
‘The centre of the earth is hotter than the surface of the sun, so you’d cook. You are going to need a refrigerated impossibly well insulated suit.’