Special & General Relativity Questions and Answers
If a marshmallow traveled at 99.99 percent the speed of light hit the Earth, what would happen?
The relativistic factor is:
1 gamma = ------------- = 70.7 2 1/2 ( 1 - (v/c) )and the total energy is then
2 E = gamma x m cA marshmallow weighs about 10 grams, so the total energy is about 70.7 x 10 x ( 30,000,000,000)^2 = 6.4 x 10^23 ergs. I think this is equal in energy to a few dozen good-sized hydrogen bombs. It makes a mess on the surface, but has no effect on the orbit of the earth.
Please, do not attempt this experiment yourself. Consult professionals first!!
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All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the NASA Astronomy Cafe, part of the NASA Education and Public Outreach program.