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The shaky science of shattering the moon in 'LawBreakers'

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LawBreakers is the new, free shooter from Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski and it features a bold premise: Humans accidentally explode the moon, which leads to catastrophic earthquakes that nearly split the world in two. Plus, the event leaves pockets of low gravity scattered across the Earth -- including in the Grand Canyon, which ends up surrounded by giant, floating rocks. It's a wild idea that, at first glance, appears to be heavier on fiction than science. So, we asked Dr. Phil Plait, a popular astronomer and science writer known as Bad Astronomer, what would happen to the Earth if humans accidentally shattered the moon. Plait responded via email with the following intro:

"I watched the trailer. Yeah, nope."

First, while the moon's gravity does impact the Earth, it doesn't affect earthquakes "except maybe very subtly (and even that is argued over -- which makes my point that the effect is incredibly weak)," Plait says.

Second: "If the moon split into pieces and they drifted apart we'd lose most of the tides on Earth (but not all -- the moon powers 2/3 of the tides, the Sun the other 1/3), but that's about it as far as gravity is concerned."

As for the giant, floating rocks in the middle of the Grand Canyon, Plait offers a succinct, "Um..."

"The real problem would be millions or billions of tons of debris raining down on Earth over the next few decades," Plait says. "That would probably wipe everyone out. I'll also note that blowing up the moon, or splitting it in half, takes a vast amount of energy. Like, taking a trillion of the largest nukes ever tested to do the deed. So there's that, too."

But let's bring this all back to solid ground -- LawBreakers is a video game and its premise is set in stone, if not science. And that's great. Anything that lets us run around a cutting-edge, low-gravity-riddled Earth, taking out bad guys to save the day, is a fine sci-fi premise in our books. (And our video games).

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