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Reality Check: Is the world doomed in Avengers #688?

Half-armageddon awaits!

You’ve gotta love Mark Waid. A physics minor in college, he’s always sneaking neat science bits into his work (sometimes even using page space to explain them!), and beginning in June, he’ll have a whole Ant-Man & the Wasp miniseries DRIVEN by science!

But just like anyone, sometimes he gets it wrong. In Avengers #688, part of the sweeping “No Surrender” story, one plot point hits both ends of the spectrum.

It had long been promised that as soon as the great competition between the Grandmaster and his Challenger had concluded, the Earth would be toast. It wasn’t clear exactly why, though — would someone take the initiative to annihilate it, or being displaced from its natural location, will our planet crumble apart all on its own?

In Avengers #688, Waid and co-writers Jim Zub and Al Ewing reveal that, despite the Challenger’s temper tantrum, it’s definitely the latter. A grand machine is keeping the Earth warm and spinning, and if it’s not maintained, it’ll suck to be us. This discovery begs the question — what keeps the Earth rotating usually?

Nothing. Remember Isaac Newton’s First Law, “an object in motion tends to stay in motion”? The only reason something slows down or stops, besides another force acting on it, is friction. There’s almost zero friction in space, so thanks to the residual momentum of the protoplanetary disk that formed our solar system, the Earth happily pirouettes away for eternity, no assist needed. In fact, as physics teacher Dave Consiglio points out in Forbes, the lack of a moon tugging away at us would probably let the Earth spin (imperceptibly) faster.

If the Earth didn’t stop moving, why was the Hulk flung off? Checkmate, scientist.

The temperature part is right! More or less. “No Surrender” seems to be taking place over the course of a day, or maybe a couple days, but Holly Otterbein wrote for Popular Science that if the Sun were extinguished tomorrow, the Earth would be reduced to a global temperature of 0°F in about a week, which would indeed be devastating. Over that period, with no light for photosynthesis, just about all food crops would die, and within a year, we’d be down to -100°. I guess the atmosphere isn’t the best insulator, after all.

So yes, please save that crazy, Silver Age machine, Avengers. Not to keep us moving, but to keep us from huddling together as the oceans freeze over.


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