The Fall makes no sense at all

(Spoilers for the new Total Recall. Also amateur physics and politics.)

So I saw the Total Recall remake today. It was pretty, a riot of worldbuilding; all round good fun, despite a marked lack of Schwarzenegger. (I would be really happy if Arnold went on a spree and remade all his movies. That would be fun. Stupid, but fun.)

But. There was a graffiti in the film, “The Fall Makes Slaves Of Us All”. The Fall? Nothing theological, but a transport tube between imperial post-apocalyptic Britain/Western Europe and colonial post-apocalyptic Australia.

The tube went through the core of the Earth.

Like, straight through all of Earth.

It was kind of difficult to suspend my disbelief for that. Worse still, the Fall was used to move factory workers from Australia to England. One way in the morning… the other way in the evening.

That’s some commute. The diameter of Earth is some 13 000 kilometers. Let us suppose the Fall is a bullet train moving at 1000 km/h — the trip would take 13 hours, which is silly. The Fall must be a lot quicker. Suppose two hours: that’d be 6500 km/h, or Mach 5 in sea level conditions. Don’t suppose what happens if you reach out and touch the wall; it won’t be pretty.

And, holy hell, I don’t even want to think about air and that tube. It’s a pit to the center of the Earth from both sides: it tends to fill with air unless you put pumps and seals in it. The air tends to compress itself (I suppose), creating a tremendously thick barrier to movement and life at the bottom, unless you have seals and pumps constantly in operation. You have a vessel passing through at least twice each day, very probably more often, causing pressure, friction, wear and tear, shaking tremendously when it is at the bottom, at the worst and the most probable place for things to go wrong… The Fall seems like a catastrophe just waiting to happen.

And what a catastrophe! Suppose there are flaps and pumps to prevent the hole from filling with air. Drop a flaming, immense hunk of steel into the Australian end of it… and you’ll create an air avalanche big enough to fill a hole a hundred meters wide and 13 000 kilometers deep. You’ll suck half of Canberra (or whatever) into the hole, and suffocate the rest.

Or suppose the tube is full of air. Drop the same plumb-bob into it. Suppose it falls, falls, gathers momentum, rips through failsafes, pushes air ahead of it… and creates a tsunami of air for the English end. Which is in the middle of a densely-populated city. Kaboom, air just killed you.

And this tube of disaster, a single tube by all appearances… through the core of the Earth… is used for factory worker commutes.

(And policed by the TSA, of course. Who do get shot up; I suppose this was cathartic for the American viewers. “You are too inquisitive, porno scanner people! Bullet fun time!”)

The setting is post-apocalyptic, so I’m willing to suppose the Fall was made, er, pre-Apocalyptic-Fall, and thus is a project of much greater dignity and purpose than its current use. This has to be so: if the post-apocalyptic folks had the ability to build the Fall, I think they would have the ability to rise above their post-apocalyptic condition, too.

Towards the end of the movie, the Fall serves as a way to foil the Bad Guy: he marches all his synthetic goons into it, and it goes kablooey.

Now. It is very possible the Fall was not a work of forgotten science, but a work of such resources as the apocalyptic folks no longer possess. What applies to the initial construction probably applies to its walls and the vehicle as well: it is possible that our hero made the Fall unusable for a long time. Given the political climate, that may have been a good thing; but it’s also possible he doomed all humankind, too. Suppose the Fall was used for more than commutes and extension of power. Suppose it’s not an accident it connects the two places that survived the apocalypse. Suppose it transported factory products, specialized parts, tools that are very necessary in this deadly world after the end.

We know that at least the military factories are safely in England, and the workers in Australia… do you suppose our English dictator might have taken industry-building steps to make a rebellion and a seizure of the Fall a really bad idea for the Australian side?

And as for England, what do they know? Their heroic leader had just moved to crush the terrorist rebels, when a final act of terror kills him, destroys the Fall, and causes the death of hundreds of servicemen and the destruction of masses of military property, leaving the society open to all kinds of chaos. Thousands of tourists are stranded in the hands of the barbaric Australians. The Fall had a capacity of at least 50 000: so there are at the very least 50 000 Australians stranded in England, with nothing except the clothes on their backs: no housing, no food, nothing but resentment and anger, gladly reciprocated. All it takes is one Aussie saying “Good riddance with the Cohaagen koala-fucker, ey, mates?” with the wrong people hearing, and the riots start…

(You need a passport for the Fall. The passport says whether you’re from “the Colony”, Australia. If you can’t provide an English passport, you’re an unhoused worker and a potential subversive, and we have camps for you…)

If the potentially rebellious underclass Australians were drafted for weapons factories in England, they had to be drafted for every other kind of work as well. Some factories didn’t have their workers in; some had only a single shift. Numberless factories hiccup or grind to a halt even if the workers don’t get interned or washed away by riots, causing shortages, hoarding, labor draft, martial law, riots… and the people will cry out for a strong leader to restore order, and to end those murderous Australian bastards.

Look out, Carl Hauser, the missiles are coming the long way round!

2 Responses to “The Fall makes no sense at all”

  1. Sigma Says:

    Two hours? That’s horribly inefficient!

    A human can withstand about 5 g-forces before bad things start to happen, according to wiki. If we assume workers drop off at one end at v=0 and experience a constant acceleration of 5g (49 m/s^2) until they get to the mid-point, and then a constant acceleration of -5g so that it kills their speed and arrive at the other end at v=0. Distance travelled at constant acceleration with zero initial velocity is 0.5*a*t^2, so each half of the journey takes sqrt(2*(earth radius)/(49 m/s^2)), which according to wolfram alpha is eight and a half minutes. So a total of 17 minutes to travel through the Earth. At the fastest point you’re going at 49 m/s^2*(510s)^2=12744900m/s, which is about 0.04 times the speed of light so I dunno if relativistic effects kick in.

  2. Mike Says:

    …not to mention the temporary weightlessness during the initial freefall. Then the characters clearly should be pulling g’s….. the molten core…. the cost alone. A friggen spaceplane could get you there faster. I could NOT suspend disbelief …….

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