Mario's Trip Through the Center of the Earth, Analyzed

Getty Images / David Ramos

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe effectively reminded us at the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony that while sports are cool and all, what the people really want is Mario. The usually somber political leader popped out of a cape dressed as Mario, leading to speculation as to whether the leader of Japan is in fact the infamous Italian plumber.

And how did Abe get there? Why, a green drainpipe of course.

In a video introduction, we can see Abe worry he wouldn’t make it to Rio de Janeiro on time; Tokyo’s hosting the 2022 Games and he obviously has to make an appearance. Cut to an animated Mario’s alter ego as an Olympic athlete, diving into a drainpipe to reach Rio. We see that his plan is to cut diagonally over to Brazil, flipping halfway through. It’s all pretty fun and will probably make you want to go home and play Nintendo 64.

But, as we at Inverse are inclined to ask, is Mario’s journey scientifically sound? Rio’s coordinates are 22.9068° S, 43.1729° W; if he were to travel in a straight line through the Earth — to 22.9068° S, 43.1729° E — Mario would land off the coast of Madagascar.

But Mario took this into account, apparently. The Tokyo Organizing Committee gets credit for getting the angle of the journey right — while it looks like Mario is jumping straight down, the trip between Tokyo and Rio is definitively more diagonal, meaning that Mario wouldn’t have to worry about messing with Earth’s hot iron and nickel core.

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The diagonal journey also excuses the animators with dealing with some clutch rules of physics. If Mario fell straight down, instead of diagonally, the laws of gravitational acceleration mean that he would be pulled towards the Earth’s core — the acceleration becoming progressively smaller the closer he got to the center. For this hypothetical you do have to ignore some of the scientific basics (air friction, uniform density, the fact that Mario would be burned to a crisp), but physicists do assume that a hollow tube leading to the center of the Earth would cause the person or object falling to feel momentarily weightless as they passed through the geometric center. Some experts at Georgia State University have figured a human falling through Earth would travel at about 17,000 miles per hour. So Mario traveling so fast? Yeah, pretty spot-on.

But the thing is that gravity also works as such that unless Mario would have something to hold onto or a stellar pipe mechanized to shoot him out at whatever is his destination, Mario’s travels through the center of the Earth would actually have him fall back the way he came and then continue to oscillate. The same GSU physicists see the journey culminating in a round-trip of about 84.5 minutes.

Maybe Luigi can help?

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