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Dear Bungie,
Er, or...is it Dear 343? Or dear Microsoft? Fuck, I dunno. Ah well. I’m gonna go with
Bungie, since they established the lore. That was kinda awkward. Do I-- Do I have a joke
for that to kick up the pacing? Anyway, 34BungieSoft. I’m writing to you
today on behalf of Clyde Marshall, who wants to know about your Halo rings. Are you ready?
I’m ready. Take a deep breath. BungieSoft3, your Halo Rings make no goddamn sense.
But why don’t they make sense? That’s the real interesting question. More interesting
than I initially realized, in fact. Y’see, originally I was planning on ripping Halo
Rings apart for being completely unrealistic as ringworlds, with only tangentially mentioning
how they work as galaxy-erasers as an afterthought. But then as I read more, the afterthought
started to become less...afterthoughty. And as I read more, and more and more, and got
deeper and deeper into the problem of Halo Rings, I started to get more and more lost
to my feelings of inquisition. Halo Ringworlds became the afterthough. And now they’re
not a thought in my mind at all. All that matters is the answers, and the answers? They
are fucking terrifying.
Most of the lore for Halo Rings was established in the very first Halo game: Halo: Combat
Evolved, which was a revolutionary game in its own right. In fact, I wasted hundreds
of hours playing coop Halo in High School. I have the story practically ingrained in
my memory. Here’s the set-up, for those of you who may have forgotten:
There’s this terrible alien race known as The Flood. They’re basically space zombies
meets The Zerg. Space Herpes. Like herpes, The Flood is annoying and notoriously difficult
to get rid of. So difficult, in fact, that these other aliens called Forerunners--kinda
think of them as being kinda like the Protheans in Mass Effect-- these Forerunners built giiaaaaaaaant
Ring Worlds capable of wiping out the Flood. Well. Sorta.
Actually what they’re designed to do is wipe all sentient life off the face of the
galaxy. Since the galaxy is kinda big, they built 12 of these things. Each one has an
effective radius of 25,000 light years. The entire galaxy is estimated at being roughly
100-180 light years wide, so this math actually checks out pretty well. There are only 7 left
by the start of Halo 1, but that’s alright--seven is still more than enough. Redundancy, man,
it’s the key to everything.
So, to summarize:
The Flood is bad. Gotta kill Flood. Turns out, they’re hard to wipe out, so instead,
Halos kill their food--which is any life over a certain biomass. Each one has an effective
radius of 25,000 light years. You with me so far? Good.
The first thing I thought of was Gamma Radiation, because, well, gamma radiation is absolutely
terrible for life. I covered this a bit in my fan theory video about Fallout and Skyrim
being in the same universe, but the long and short of it is that Gamma Radiation is a form
of electormagnetic radiation characterized by an incredibly high frequency. It’s the
kind of radiation created during nuclear fusion and fission--like when nuclear bombs detonate.
Remember that for later, it’s important. Anyway, gamma rays penetrate human bodies
and cause damage on a cellular level all the way through your body. They’re cataclysmic
to our internal organs in sufficient doses, creating permanent negative health effects
at even low doses, and outright death in high doses.
In fact, Halo Lore seems to support gamma radiation as the source, as the wiki mentions
it being radiation that targets the nervous system. Now, most radiation doesn’t center
in on any particular system, but as the Halos aren’t fully understood, that’s alright.
So, gamma radiation. Gamma radiation travels at c, which is smartypants science talk for
“the speed of light.” You see it occur in formulas like Einstein’s famous Mass-Energy
Equivalence formula E=mc^2. So right away you see a problem with this whole 25,000 Light
Year thing. Light years are a distance, described as the distance light, in a vacuum, covers
in a year. So if I shine a flashlight at you from 1 lightyear away, you’ll finally see
the beam 365 days later. So...gamma rays, traveling at the speed of light, are going
to take over 25,000 years to actually do their job. Not that that necessarily makes Halos
that much less terrifying--having inescapable, deadly doses of radiation inching toward you
at the speed of light has a incomprehensible, ethereal Lovecraftian horror to it. But sufficiently-advanced
societies with faster-than-light traveling capabilities would have time to prepare.
Luckily, the Halo Universe has something called Slipstream Space which can save any writer
from the confines of modern science and consequences. Normally occupants of the Halo universe use
this for Faster-Than-Light travel, but apparently the Halo devices are capable of firing into
Slipstream Space and therefore circumvent the whole Speed of Light thing. Whatever.
I just. Whatever. I’ll just accept it. Whatever. I’m too tired to rant about this.
So, we’ll ignore the whole problem with lightspeed. But a single Halo still has to
output enough energy to cause cataclysmic damage to organisms in a 25,000 lightyear
range. Speed may be circumvented, but energy requirements aren’t. And in order to figure
that out, we have to figure out how powerful gamma radiation has to be right at the 25,000
light year radius. From there, we can work our way back. But...that’s impossible, right?
I mean, we don’t have a real life analogue for this sort of thing that we can do the
math for.
Turns out: yes, yes we do. Enter, the most terrifying thing to enter the list of catastrophic
things that could ruin our days after Super Volcanoes: Gamma Ray Bursts. Gamma Ray bursts
are created when supermassive stars go supernova and send out jet bursts of extremely potent
radiation. The first one was detected in 1967 by a satellite the United States put into
orbit becuase it was the cold war and they were paranoid that Russia would be doing secret
nuclear weapons tests in space. Because, whatever, that’s just what people worried about back
then.
So it turns out that occasionally our planet is bombarded by super deadly gamma radiation
from dying stars. So why are we still here? Well, for a few reasons. 1) these stars are
very, very far away. Most of the time, actually, they’re in entirely different galaxies.
Which is good, because these bursts tend to be immensely powerful. 2) our atmosphere is
actually pretty good at filtering out, or attenuating gamma radiation. It hits the upper
limits of our atmosphere, and gets scattered and turns into Ultra Violet radiation. All-in-all,
only about .2% of the total strength of gamma radiation reaching our planet makes it down
to the ground in the form of Ultraviolet radiation.
BUT a sufficiently powerful gamma ray burst that’s close enough could actually cause
damage on levels we can’t even imagine. In fact, it’s theorized that Gamma Ray bursts
may have been responsible for a couple Mass Extinction events in our history. Astrophysicist
A.L Melott actually did the math on how damaging various gamma ray bursts could be to our planet
depending on their strength and distance from us. He figured out if the average supernova,
which releases five-hundred tredecillion watts over ten seconds. Those of you that watched
my plasma rifle video may remember that watts are simply joules-per-second. For the sake
of simplicity, I’m going to do everything else in the video in Joules. Anyway, 500 Tredecillion
watts over ten seconds amounts to 5 quatttuor-decillion joules. A.L Melott calculated that the average
supernova releasing 5 quatttuor-decillion joules of energy at 700 parsecs, or just over
2200 light years, would be utterly disastrous for life on earth.
Should a gamma ray burst from a collapsing supermassive star a mere 2200 light years
away slam into us, the gamma rays would punch straight through the outermost layers of the
atmosphere and dump directly into our stratosphere--also known as where most of our ozone layer is.
It is here that the gamma rays would finally almost entirely attenuate and scatter. Luckily,
only .2% of the energy ever actually reaches the surface in the form of ultraviolet radiation--unfortunately,
we’d be getting bathed with 40 times more ultraviolet radiation than the sun outputs.
Plants, people, animals--none of us are designed to handle this kind of radiation. Almost everything
that’s outside and unsheltered, would die from acute radiation poisoning and burns.
Even animals in the ocean are unsafe, at least the ones that dwell in shallower water. These
gamma rays would only be hitting half the planet, luckily, but just like that, nearly
half of all life on earth will be shut off like a light switch.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. While gamma radiation was attenuating, that is,
getting weaker, in the stratosphere, it wasn’t just doing nothing. It was ionizing nearby
molecules and atoms. This means oxygen and nitrogen atoms would be splitting off from
one another and recombining to form different nitrous oxides. The ozone layer is made of...ozone,
or three oxygen atoms bound together. This means all this gamma radiation would be completely
destroying our ozone layer in favor of a nitrous-oxide layer, which is significantly worse at filtering
out harmful x-rays and ultraviolet radiation from our nearest nuclear fusion reactor: the
sun.
So while most of the immediate damage from a Gamma Ray burst impact will be on one side
of the planet, our ozone layer will be immediately reduced by half across the entire planet.
In fact, Nitrous-Oxide is also known to passively eliminate ozone as well. So long-term prognosis
isn’t good. As soon as daylight hits the nighttime side of the planet, everyone from
plants to animals will be getting bathed in terrible Ultraviolet Radiation bad enough
to completely disrupt our ecosystem and kill off whatever remains. As a somewhat ironic
twist of fate, Nitrous Oxide also blocks visible light spectrums more than ozone does, which
means while our planet would be getting significantly more deadly ultraviolet radiation, our planet
would actually be plunged into a new, darker ice age. Basically, a powerful gamma ray burst
from within our neighboring stars would turn our planet into a literal hell on earth.
Well. That’s a cheerful thought. So. What’s this mean for Halo rings? How powerful of
a gamma ray burst would a single Halo Ring need to unleash to get equally catastrophic
results? Now, I know theoretically you might argue some folk could survive this, but remember
this is the strength at the very edge of a Halos’ effective radius. Given that there
can be any number from 12 to 7 of these things going off means there’s going to be a lot
of overlap. Anyway, radiation decays as it moves outward. Luckily, the math for this
is actually quite simple.
I’m going to save you a paragraph, but if you want to check my math I have a link in
the description. When you plug all the numbers in the right place, you get the energy output
of the original burst at the source of the Halo, which amounts to 5.995 Quindecillion
joules. So. That’s a big number. 5 followed by 47 zeros. I think it’s the biggest number
I’ve ever said on the show. Do win something?
But what’s that actually mean in numbers? It’s over 100 times the power of the average
supernova detailed by Melott in his paper. So...it’s ridiculous, right? Well, yes,
and no. What if I told you that, yes, while this number is absurdly huge, it’s only
registering at roughly two-thirds the strength of the biggest explosion we’ve ever seen
in our sky? You’d be right to think that this explosion is too intense for a supernova,
but it’s right in the sweet spot for something even more terrifying: hypernovas. Novae. Whatever.
You see, while Supernovae are mostly understood, nobody’s quite sure what causes hypernovas,
since they don’t seem to be a terribly frequent occurrence in our galaxy. The only reason
this explosion we discovered didn’t wreck our shit was because the exploding hypernova
was over 12 Billion lightyears away--leaving us safely out of range for its deadly effects.
But what if one explodes in our galaxy? Well, hopefully one never does, but if it did, it
would still take thousands of years to reach us. Also thankfully, supernovas and hypernovas
don’t seem to eject radiation out in a globe shape, but rather in a cone.
So, in order for a Halo ring to work, it would have to be able to unleash more energy than
our entire sun will have during its lifetime in a matter of seconds to create the biggest
explosion we’d ever witness in our entire galaxy. If it found a way to disperse the
energy evenly, everything in its path would be completely and totally fucked, even at
the furthest 25,000 light year point. Our galaxy would be totally fucked. The most absurd
notion is that somehow these Halos have been fired before and are still around undamaged,
as opposed to being sucked into the massive, solar-system sized black hole they will have
created by unleashing that amount of energy. Also, the Flood would be totally unable to
survive this, especially if they were anywhere near the initial blast. Things at the very
edge of the effective radius are only mostly fucked, but anything well-within this 25,000
light year radius is likely to be completely vaporized on the spot, planets too.
So it turns out your Halos aren’t really all that mathematically feasible as superweapons,
BungieSoft. But, you know what? I honestly don’t give a shit anymore, because now I
fucking know that at any moment deadly space radiation traveling at the speed of light
could slam into my planet without warning, wiping me and everyone I know and love off
the face of the world in an instant like
a cold, unfeeling, uncaring hand of god. So. Whatever. Do whatever you want. I’m going to go get drunk.
Thank you everyone for watching my Halo science video on Halo rings.
This one was a challenge. I researched this one for like 4 days straight. I read several astrophysicists
journals. It is incredibly complicated. If you like this channel, be sure to like and subscribe
Sincerely, Austin
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The SCIENCE! Behind Halo Rings

267 Folder Collection
Mine Shi Lee published on November 25, 2016
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