Dragging Mars Closer to the Earth
Part 2

An Intellectual Tug of War

Professor Randy Wilmslow believes that the most effective way of reaching our nearest neighbouring planets is to drag them closer to the Earth. And for that he is going to need a very strong rope.

In order to further explore the technology required for such an audacious idea, the Professor has hired a pub tug-of-war team to test new high-tensile ropes, and an ex-boy scout called Billy who is very good at knots. The problem, Professor Wilmslow states, is that current technologies will seriously limit the scope of the scheme.

"Oh sure, if you want to start yanking your average Earth-sized planet out of its orbit, then you can probably pick up a length of tow rope from a local garage that is easily up to the task," the Professor explained. "But try that on a gas giant such as Jupiter or Neptune and, frankly, you're going to end up looking like a right dick. It would be like trying to haul a billiard table out of a swamp with a shoelace - you'll end up with mud on your face, a stain on your reputation and you'll never play snooker again.

"So we need stronger rope. That's something that is definitely on our shopping list. We also need to develop a way to deploy it," the Professor told us. "It's relatively easy to lasso our nearest neighbours from the Earth, as long as you've got a strong right arm and a sufficiently high mountain to stand on. But the further away you cast your line, the trickier it gets, so we're looking at other options. A grappling hook would be ideal for Saturn, because it can just hook round the rings, but for the other planets, we need some sort of harpoon."

Critics of the scheme, of which there are many, tend to agree that the Professor's optimism is misplaced. In particular, Dr Thaddeus Pendlebury of the Tiny Tots Toytime Playcentre in Windemere, thinks that the Professor has grossly underestimated the difficulties of what he calls a 'monumentally ludicrous and arse-clenchingly ridiculous' scheme. Dr Pendlebury, who is not known for mincing his words, has one or two things to say about inertia.

"Oh my God, this is just nuts!" he exclaimed. "Does this freak not realise what he's doing? Okay, okay, okay then, let's say he manages to get a rope around Jupiter, or hook it with a fishing line, or some giant frigging suction cup or something. Yeah? So in order to get the thing moving in the right direction he's got to exert enough force to overcome its inertia - and the bigger the object, the greater the inertia. 'Cos that's like, Newton, or something, isn't it? You know, the fifth law of locomotion, or something, yeah?

"Okay, okay, that's all okay," he continues. "Let's say, for the sake of argument, that he actually manages to do that - the same inertia that makes it difficult to move the planet is going to make it just as difficult to bring it to a halt. How does he propose to stop the damn thing once he's got it where he wants it? Don't answer that. I know what he's going to do. I've already had this conversation with him, yeah? Crash mats. He's going to wedge some crash mats up against the sun. Honestly, the guy is off his nut. He's a... he's a... he's a tit, and I hate him."

Next time: A Case of Professional Jealousy?

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