It would be mostly awesome if the Sun went out right now*

Today's XKCD What If? explores many of the benefits that would accrue to the human race if the Sun were suddenly extinguished.

Reduced risk of solar flares: In 1859, a massive solar flare and geomagnetic storm hit the Earth.[1] Magnetic storms induce electric currents in wires. Unfortunately for us, by 1859 we had wrapped the Earth in telegraph wires. The storm caused powerful currents in those wires, knocking out communications and in some cases causing telegraph equipment to catch fire.[2]

Since 1859, we've wrapped the Earth in a lot more wires. If the 1859 storm hit us today, the Department of Homeland Security estimates the economic damage to the US alone would be several trillion dollars[3]—more than every hurricane which has ever hit the US combined.[4] If the Sun went out, this threat would be eliminated.

Improved satellite service: When a communications satellite passes in front of the Sun, the Sun can drown out the satellite's radio signal, causing an interruption in service.[5] Deactivating the Sun would solve this problem.

Better astronomy: Without the Sun, ground-based observatories would be able to operate around the clock. The cooler air would create less atmospheric noise, which would reduce the load on adaptive optics systems and allow for sharper images.

Stable dust: Without sunlight, there would be no Poynting–Robertson drag, which means we would finally be able to place dust into a stable orbit around the Sun without the orbits decaying. I’m not sure whether anyone wants to do that, but you never know.

Reduced infrastructure costs: The Department of Transportation estimates that it would cost $20 billion per year over the next 20 years to repair and maintain all US bridges.[6] Most US bridges are over water; without the Sun, we could save money by simply driving on a strip of asphalt laid across the ice.

Sunless Earth



  1. Much reduced UV damage – paint, clothes, etc will all last longer due to the lack of UV.  Plus, we don’t need to worry about the holes in the ozone layer any more.  And, of course, no more sunburns (although this is going to impact the good folks at Coppertone, but I’m sure they can sell something for people that want to use tanning booths).

  2. Endless tweets about #nosun. Specious explanations by Wolf Blitzer with hastily made graphics. A heyday for religious kooks. Cats wanting to be fed continuously thinking it’s perpetually 5 am. “Sunday” will be a sad reminder. No more songs about “moonlight.” People will think global warming wasn’t such a bad thing afterall compared to this. No ozone. No rainbows. Weather forecasts drop “partly cloudy.” Every meal is breakfast. Digital cameras created with incredibly high ISOs. No more hackneyed photos of sunsets on Flickr. Pale is the new black. Vitamin D supplements in everything. Mushrooms on every menu.

  3. Stable dust: Without sunlight, there would be no Poynting–Robertson drag, which means we would finally be able to place dust into a stable orbit around the Sun without the orbits decaying.

    Let’s see, does this mean that I can now create an interplanetary robotic airbrush to arrange some sort of fluorescing radioactive microdots into graffiti:   Nebulon Eats Uranus!

  4. Whiskey will still stop the Irish from ruling the world, with or without help from the sun.

  5. Yes, yes, very nice except for the fact that the earth would soon become a big ice ball as the oceans froze, most plants would stop growing and die plus most of the animals including humans would die and many other delightful weather related effects of extreme cold.  An Arctic winter year round for all.  Oh what fun!

    1. That was actually the first thought I had when I read the headline and it just made the entire article, and most comments sound utterly ridiculous.

    2. Why the need to be so negative? We just had a long list of positive aspects, but nooooo… had to go directly for the negative. This is why we can’t have nice things!

      1. The negatives greatly out weight any positive effects.  Although it is indeed fun to speculate about such things.  What if there was no air, things would never rust.

    1. But… they’re crepuscular. They would thrive during the Twilight of Earth.

      1. True, but the year round freezing temperatures would kill them off! 

        Oooh, I’m currently covered in mosquitoe bites (they absolutely love me!), I’m so in favor of this!

  6. Lets not forget how much we would all save in sunglasses purchases.

    Although I would still need a visor for poker dealing.

    1. Of course any cost savings we got from not having to purchase sunglasses would be hugely offset by the need to purchase expensive night-vision goggles.   The plus side to that is, NIGHT VISION GOGGLES!

  7. We’d finally be able to get Riddick’s Eyeshine treatments to improve our night vision.

    Downside to that is we might also have to deal with mutated-killer-sonar-powered-bat creatures.

  8. Crabgrass and dandelions ruining people lawns…no longer a problem. Young people can go clubbing at all hours and feel comfortable doing so. Skin cancer rates plummet…Also now that the stupid sun no longer oppresses us with its solar systemic gravitational forces, the Earth can finally fly free through the aether to seek out new life, new civilizations and some well earned lebensraum

    Plus really beautiful starry skies…wait, just our sun gets extinguished…not…all of them?

  9. If you read the actual article it’s clear the obvious downside is not being overlooked. But it’s interesting to focus on the unexpected benefits.

    Also thanks to this post, XKCD has now created a self-referential loop. Awesome.

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