Is It Possible To Dig a Hole Through the Earth?

planet-earth-from-space

Reader Louis sends in an interesting question, asking “If it was possible to dig a hole all the way through the Earth, what would happen if you jumped into it?”

This is a terrific, thought-provoking question. Thanks again, Louis.

First of all, no, it’s not possible. Sorry to disappoint. After all, you would have to dig through:

  •  More than 8,000 miles of solid rock and molten magma.
  • Temperatures up to 6000 degrees.
  • Extreme pressures up to 300 million times more than what we experience on the surface of the Earth.

But, let’s say that somehow it was possible. That a hole, going straight through our planet, did exist. What would the properties of that hole be?

Firstly, falling or jumping straight down the hole is more difficult than it sounds. After about a mile of falling, you would crash into the side of the hole and likely never even make it to the other side. But why?

Because of the Coriolis Effect. The surface of Earth is constantly spinning at more than 1,000 miles per hour. If you go deeper into the Earth, it’s still moving all around you, but the mass inside doesn’t have as far to travel. It’s a bit like the lanes on a running track. The inside lane is shortest, and they get lengthier as you move out. So, if you jumped into the hole, you would soon be traveling faster than the sides of the hole around you, causing you to crash into the sides.

The only way to make it work, would be to dig the hole straight through Earth’s poles. Then the Coriolis Effect wouldn’t apply, and this hypothetical gets much more interesting.

Without the Coriolis Effect getting in the way, you would fall straight down, being pulled by gravity the same as if you jumped off of a building or bride or other high platform. And, with nothing to stop your rate of speed, you would soon be traveling at 6 miles per second. Yikes.

But, as you approached the center of the Earth, something wild would happen. The mass above you would begin to cancel out the attraction of the mass below you, meaning that the downward pull would weaken until you reach the center. And this is where things get crazy.

Once you reach the center, you would experience NO gravitational pull. Achieving, in effect, weightlessness. You would just float, being pulled equally by gravity in all directions. That said, you would still be traveling at an unparalleled speed, so you’d zip right through that awesome feeling pretty quickly.

As you pass through Earth’s center, still moving at 6 miles per second, the process would begin to reverse. And the pull would strengthen again, until you popped out on the other side of the globe about 40 minutes later.

So, supposing this impossibility were actually possible, it sounds pretty cool, right? You would be able to travel to the other side the world while experiencing weightlessness and the speed of sound. And the whole trip would take less than an hour.

Want a more detailed answer? The video below does a great job of explaining science behind this answer.

Also, for kicks, let’s say that it was possible to dig straight through the Earth. If you started at your home, where would you pop out on the other side? Click here to figure it out.

 

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30 Responses to “Is It Possible To Dig a Hole Through the Earth?”

  1. Owen
    June 27, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    AWESOME!!!!!!!

    • Awesome man
      August 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

      That is cool. But if that is then why would you want to ruin the experience for Chinese kids trying to get to their grandparents or uncles and aunts.

  2. purple bird
    June 28, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Okay, well riddle me this, Boys’ Life. If the Earth had a huge tunnel going through it, would the Earth eventually collapse on itself? Is another way to describe this is to imagine you were playing Angry Birds Space and you shot a bird (me, for example) through a hollow planet and it just came out the other side??? Peechtival!

    • Boys' Life
      June 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      To your first question, I believe that the Earth would collapse on itself. Although, because we already established that this is a fictional hypothetical, there is probably some far-fetched way to secure and reinforce the tunnel/hole. But, you’re right, the hole through Earth hypothetical is a bit like Angry Birds. The only difference is that Earth has its own atmosphere, which includes gravity. In the angry birds game, gravity is often absent or much less strong. So, if an Angry Bird was shot through the Earth, in a tunnel, its force or strength of how fast it was launched wouldn’t make much of a difference. It would end up being the same as you jumping or falling into the hole. Did you know that if you dropped a tennis ball and a bowling ball off of a building, they would each reach the bottom at the same time? Their weight make no difference to the rate at which they fall.

      • purple bird
        June 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

        Oh, okay then. Thanks! (I think you might have broken the record for the longest comment on this website.) Peechtival!

      • What?
        July 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

        Your comment is just longer than Joseph for how many lines(10.6 vs. 10.2), but is way smaller than Joseph for how many words (130 vs. 174).

  3. What?
    July 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    You would always land in a ocean.

  4. ninjapies44
    July 10, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    If you dig a hole through the north pole, Where would santa live?

    • What?
      July 12, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      He would cover the hole with snow. Anyways, I’ve seen pictures of the North Pole, & no Santa in sight. All there is there is flags.

      • ninjapies44
        July 12, 2013 at 11:22 am #

        but wouldn’t the snow fall into the hole?

      • What?
        July 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

        Yah, it would. The snow is what you already dug. So, you let that all build up till’ it gets to the top.

        Wise Guy says:

        You would only be able to put in half because of gravity, so you would have to put the rest of it on the South pole.

      • ninjapies44
        July 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

        ohhhhh ok

  5. Joseph
    July 11, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    To the Editor of Boys Life Magazine: I liked the article because I think the question grabbed my attention right away. It is a question that would make you think if it is possible… I can see now why the author had multiple reasons why it can’t be true. Like one of the reasons is that people already tried to dig a hole through the earth in Russia and only went 12km into the Earth because it was getting too hot. Another reason is that in the center of the earth it is molten magma, and it is not like you can shovel it out of the way with more than 8,000 miles of solid rock. You should keep putting more articles like this because I like science and math. It also had a great video that explained in depth the possibilities of why it can or cannot be true in a funny sort of way. I like to know what is the name of the scientist in the video and how can I watch more of his videos?
    Thank you Joseph from Orlando

    • ninjapies44
      July 12, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Wow man…
      You used many scientific reasons in your comment…..

      and even though i’m not the editor, just a quick shoutout…

      I LOVE SCIENCE!
      LOL

      • What? & Wise Guy & Name Checker
        July 19, 2013 at 10:58 am #

        What: Me too!
        Wise Guy: Me three!
        Name checker: Me four!
        *Bang-drop*
        What: I knew you were going to do something with that tennis ball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. The Doctor
    July 15, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    I watched the video then IMMEDIATELY told my sister all about it. She went……”What?”……Hold on, gotta get in the TARDIS….. See ya on Skaro!!!!

    • The Doctor
      July 17, 2013 at 6:37 am #

      By the way, I’m the thirteenth Doctor. (Not really) Say Aye if you watch Doctor Who!!!! AYE!!!!!!!!!! I am the biggest fan of Dr. Who alive!!!!!

      • What?
        July 19, 2013 at 11:05 am #

        Mye,eye,lye, vye,pye and bye!!!!!!!!!!!!( but no ***(” …Say ___ if you watch…”) at all!)

      • John smith
        August 5, 2013 at 10:05 am #

        Nope, I am and aye.

  7. mr scout
    July 15, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    what if someone dug a hole through the south pole and came up on santas house

    LOL

    • What?
      July 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

      Go and see 360 photos of the North Pole and tell me what you see or, if you have Google Earth or can install it (http://earth.google.com/), then go to the North Pole and see the photo there.

  8. MASTER CHIEF
    July 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    should bring a parachute.

  9. Mr.JAMsquared
    July 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Aye

  10. 8of12
    July 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Whoaaaa………. That is really cool!!

  11. The Doctor
    July 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Hey, MASTER CHIEF, you wouldn’t need a parachute for 2 reasons. 1: You wouldn’t even make it to the other side if you deployed it. 2: When you popped out on the other side, you would be going slow enough to just step out on the other side. By the way, I LOVE SCIENCE!!!!! And, “Joseph”, I think you hold the world record for longest comment on the site. unless this one can beat it. BOOYAH!!!!!!!!!

  12. Mr.Matt
    July 31, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I actually made a comment longer. i did a report for school on hernando cortes on my laptop and i copied and pasted it on here. beat that!

  13. Mr.Matt
    July 31, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    I also have a question. since gravity is made by a ball of heat in the middle of the earth then in the middle you burn to ashes. but it would be quick and painless.

  14. dear The Docter
    August 1, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

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  15. marvel
    August 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    :o

  16. Anna Banana
    December 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> :-)

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