How the planets of Mario’s galaxy would destroy themselves due to lack of mass and excessive pressure
Video game company Nintendo’s most famous mascot, Mario, may be a plumber by trade, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking on a variety of roles throughout the years – including working as a planet-hopping space explorer in 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy and its 2010 sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2.
However, while Mario may enjoy exploring the vast unknown in the video game world, his exploits might not function quite so well in real life. Students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy have calculated that the small planets Mario navigates in the game would likely explode in real life due to the severe imbalance of gravitational pressure they would be exposed to given their modest size.
In the study the students have observed that the various planets visited in the game appear to be approximately 100m in diameter. This would lead to the curvature of their surfaces being not only visible but extreme, with Mario often walking around the whole circumference of a planet in a minute or two. His movement and jumping capabilities appear the same on each planet, as well as on Earth, leading to the assumption that they all have the same surface gravity (9.81ms ²).
If confined in too small a space, elementary particles are not only affected by electric repulsion, but also by quantum repulsion between electrons. If this quantum force is larger than electric repulsion, electrons become degenerate and exert an additional degeneracy pressure against the gravitational pressure. In white dwarfs this pressure is balanced by gravity to produce a stable body - however the baby planets in the Super Mario Galaxy games would not have enough mass to have this stability.
As the degeneracy pressure far outstrips the gravitational pressure, planets of this size would survive for only a very brief moment before violently destroying themselves and any gaming avatars that happen to be running about on their surface - showing that if real-world physics were applied to Mario’s world it would seemingly result in a lot of ‘Game Over’ screens.
The students presented their findings in a paper for the Journal of Physics Special Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. The student-run journal is designed to give students practical experience of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing scientific papers.