How to Destroy the Planet

By Eric Roston - 2012-04-20T12:50:43Z

Photograph by Michael Reynolds/epa/Corbis

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Georeactor Freeze

THREAT: A nuclear "georeactor" inside the Earth shuts off, taking down the planet's magnetic field and exposing living things and human infrastructure to harmful cosmic radiation.

REALITY: The Earth's molten iron core and radioactive decay are thought to provide the Earth's internal energy, not an internal nuclear georeactor. A geophysicist named J. Marvin Herndon has put forth that hypothesis, noting his concern that the internal nuclear plant might even shut down "in the next century, in a million years, or in a billion years from now" in a 2003 peer-reviewed paper.

It's an exciting idea, but -- like the 2003 movie The Core, about an analogous planetary catastrophe -- not one that has stood up to scrutiny.

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