The economical overlord who wants simply to exterminate all life on Earth but does not care whether the planet itself is wiped out naturally focuses first on the thin but vital shred of gas which normally separates the biosphere from airless space. Normally it is mainly composed of nitrogen and oxygen, which by themselves are not enough for a really satisfying chain reaction, but which can be mixed with other ingredients of one's choosing to bring off the desired effect. Here are a few pointers on how you might plan to set up a satisfying worldwide flambé.
- The secret sauce. Despite millennia of pouring noxious vapors into the atmosphere, it is not by itself in a state where it can be easily set alight. In most cases one must help the burning process along by introducing some material, whether a gas or a finely dispersed liquid or solid, which can help the reactive process along by its presence, possibly being consumed in the process. You will no doubt need vast quantities of this to go along with the billions of cubic miles of atmosphere begging to be lit up, along with a series of staging areas where it will be released.
- Injection. When the time comes to seed the atmosphere with your noxious substance, you will have to allow time for the concentration to build up to a usable level. If it is highly toxic or otherwise harmful to life, you run the risk of killing off everyone before they have a chance to see the actual incendiary effect and atmospheric blowoff that you are working so hard to provide them, so the amount of time you have available will be quite limited. Take this into account as you plan the plumbing of the emitters.
- Ignition. The reaction you are after may either be sudden and explosive or a prolonged glow basting the surface of the Earth over a period of time. In either case, you should consider exactly how you will ensure that it is set off in an efficient and orderly fashion not subject to any concerted countermeasures your antagonists might be likely to put up. Remember too that if the combination is too reactive, it just might be so violent that it can snuff itself out before raging to completion, leaving you with only a partial fulfillment of your evil plans.
- Serve immediately. If all has gone well, you will have a charred cinder of a planet surrounded either by noxious by-products or by nothing at all if a shockwave has blown all the gases clear of the Earth entirely. Presumably you yourself are in a position to admire your destructive handiwork from some safe vantage point — savor these first few moments of transformation, for they may well be your crowning achievement as a supervillain.
Strokes of genius
- Wind. Computer models are becoming better at modeling the motion of air masses in the lower atmosphere every year, a lucky thing for you, as you cannot count on a calm day worldwide. Expect at least a few areas where the prevailing winds and the ambient temperatures will be against your diabolical scheme and be sure to make provisions to go back over those regions in a later pass as needed.
- Orbital platforms. If you are viewing the fruit of your labor from a satellite or a deep space observation platform, you may wish to station a number of remote telemetry satellites to supplement the direct view you will have, the better to appreciate the global catastrophe from every point of view. The added expense may be justified if you consider the superior experience these will provide you.
- Nukes. It is a widespread colloquialism to refer to energetic nuclear reactions as if they were a sort of burning, even though they are not chemical reactions of any sort. It is possible to consume the Earth's atmosphere through nuclear or even more exotic means, and this may well accomplish the same goals a conflagration might. Do not be misled by the notion of the all-powerful atom and underestimate the amount of munitions needed to go this route, since you are still working against the enormous quantity of atmosphere to start with.
- The lifeless world. Deprived of air, the Earth will take on a very different role when it comes to the human and natural realms. Even if you are set up with a vast army of artificial rubbish-removal units you may underestimate the cleanup time it will take to set things right given the scope of the devastation you have unleashed, so be sure to give yourself a generous buffer.
Traps for mere fools
- Faulty modelling. Not a fashion disaster, but rather a computer prediction gone wrong. These can be caused by faulty inputs into your model, a serious deficiency in the theory, or an interaction between your suggested mechanism of adulterating the troposphere and other contaminants you neglected to take into account. If you are staking everything on this one supercomputer printout, make sure that you have gone over it thoroughly assuming worst case values for all the critical junctures to settle in your mind the question of stability of the process.
- An expensive fizzle. Whether caused by impurities in your raw ingredients or by external interference by your adversaries, this represents a humiliating blow to your reputation. If this is the outcome, remember that spinning the outcome to make it seem that this was your actual intention, a test run perhaps, or blaming other, lesser parties for the disappointment only reinforces the ridiculousness you have brought upon yourself; much better is to own up to the fiasco and vow a bigger, more foolproof future rematch.
- Damp fuses.
- Insufficient mixing.
Precious and needful
- Powdered magnesium.
- Spark generators.
- Aerial drones.
- Reinforced concrete bunker.
- Oven mitts.
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- Image credit Global Warming (Effetto Serra) by PIX-JOCKEY (Roberto Rizzato)
- Image credit Ignite the moment... by ViaMoi
- Image credit The Wanda Wonder by alexkess
Created by: . Last Modification: Sunday 27 of November, 2011 06:07:12 EST by .