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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 theyre

  • 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. Theyre 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 theyre 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, theyre 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. Theyre 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, youll 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, well 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, theyre 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 Haloseffective 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 weve 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