Science Questions with Surprising Answers
Answers provided by
Dr. Christopher S. Baird

If I were able to dig a hole from the U.S. through the center of the earth, what part of China would I end up in?

Category: Earth Science      Published: December 19, 2012

The U.S. is in the northern hemisphere. If you went straight through the earth's center, you would end up in the southern hemisphere, nowhere near China. Take a globe of the earth and rest it on the palm of your hand like a basketball so that the U.S. is touching your palm. The spot on the globe pointing straight up is on the opposite side of the earth from the U.S. and is where you would come up after your brave digging expedition. You would end up in the Indian ocean southwest of Australia. If you were very careful, you could start your dig at just the right spot in Canada and end up on the tiny island of Heard in the middle of the ocean. If you were determined to start on one continent and end on another continent, the closest jumping off point would probably be Peru, which would lead you to Malaysia.

If you still have your heart set on surprising the Chinese farmers by surfacing in their fields, your tunnel will have to start in Argentina. Digging such a tunnel is of course hypothetical. The temperature at the center of the earth is 9800 F and the pressure is about 4 million times higher than at the surface of the earth, according to D. Alfe in his paper "The ab inito Simulation of the Earth's Core". No vehicle or digging machine can withstand those temperatures and pressures using current technology. Even if such a miraculous machine were invented, it would have a long way to go. The English Channel Tunnel spans 31 miles underground and took 6 years to build. At that same rate, a tunnel through the earth would take 1600 years to dig.

Topics: China, geography, hole, through the earth, tunnel