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What would life on Earth be like if our planet were cube-shaped?

In the two-part season finale of Dead Planets Society, our hosts are turning Earth into a cube with fascinating results – walking to space, enormous sea monsters and more

By Leah Crane and Chelsea Whyte

21 November 2023

It’s coming home. In the season one finale of Dead Planets Society, our hosts Leah Crane and Chelsea Whyte are taking on everyone’s favourite planet: Earth. But fear not – they aren’t destroying it entirely, just reshaping it a bit. Gravity naturally encourages objects in space to form spheres, but in this episode, Earth is getting cubified.

Transforming Earth into a cube is difficult, so our hosts have turned to geophysicist and disaster researcher Mika McKinnon for help. No matter how you do it, Earth is going to be uninhabitable for a while. But once things settle down, life on our home planet would be drastically different.

For one thing, if Earth were moulded into a cube but kept the same mass and amount of water, the oceans would pool up into six seas – one on each face of Cube Earth – protruding from the surface like a huge lens. The atmosphere would behave similarly, not reaching the edges or corners. This would leave a narrow uninhabitable zone around each sea, with bleak mountains beyond the atmosphere.

Space exploration would, in some ways, be simplified – all you would have to do to get into the vacuum of space would be to build a shielded rover and trundle off towards the edges of the world. With no air to hamper things, those edges would be perfect for space launches and telescopes. But the constant earthquakes triggered as gravity tries to make the planet a sphere again might make things tough.

Then, in the second part of the finale episode, our hosts and McKinnon take on what life will be like on Cube Earth. Days will seem different, as each sunrise and sunset will happen suddenly across each face of the planet. The world’s new shape and the six bubbles of atmosphere would encourage something like island evolution, potentially producing strange wildlife and enormous sea monsters.

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Dead Planets Society is a podcast that takes outlandish ideas about how to tinker with the cosmos – from putting out the sun to causing a gravitational wave apocalypse – and subjects them to the laws of physics to see how they fare.

To listen, subscribe to New Scientist Weekly or visit our podcast page here. Dead Planets Society will be back with season two in 2024.

Transcript, part one

Mika McKinnon: So, think about if you want to go outside the magnetic field you have to be in your little fish bowl.

Leah Crane: Yeah, I want to cruise around in my all-terrain fish bowl.

Chelsea Whyte: Why are we outside Earth’s magnetic field? Because we’re making the planet a cube. Welcome to Dead Planets Society, everybody.

Leah Crane: This is a podcast where we imagine what it might be like if we were given cosmic powers to rearrange the universe.

Chelsea Whyte: I’m Chelsea Whyte, US editor at New Scientist.

Leah Crane: And I’m Leah Crane, physics and space reporter at New Scientist.

Chelsea Whyte: And welcome to the first episode of our two-part season one finale. This one is a doozy, folks.

Leah Crane: This week it’s time for the most dangerous game. We’re taking down Earth.

Chelsea Whyte: And in true Dead Planets Society fashion we’re doing it in glorious style.

Leah Crane: Glorious, geometric style. We’re making it a cube.

Chelsea Whyte: Cube Earth, Cube Earth, Cube Earth.

Leah Crane: Cube Earth, Cube Earth.

Chelsea Whyte: I truly love this idea and I can’t wait to find out how we could slice the planet’s faces off.

Leah Crane: Thanks, Hannibal.

Chelsea Whyte: You’re welcome. But also I’m curious what will it do to gravity, or time, what would it be like to live on Cube Earth?

Leah Crane: Well, I’ve done a little bit of research so one thing I do know is that it would be absolutely wild. Or should I say, it will be absolutely wild? We’ve also got geophysicist and disaster researcher Mika McKinnon to help us out, and we started by asking her what’s the best way to make Earth a cube?

Mika McKinnon: I think that’s actually the most challenging part, is trying to get the cube, and then once you have the cube just, kind of, assuming that it stays that way, because when left to its own devices, anything big enough is going to go in the spherical and/or lumpy potato direction. Just that’s how gravity works. So first you have to get it into a cube, then you have to keep it into a cube. So I thought that we would start and keep the same mass, because if you start screwing with the mass of the Earth then really you don’t have the Earth at all anymore. So I figured you need to, like, shave down the sides and stick them up in the corners, kind of like a big ball of clay going on. And if you really think about the Earth, it’s not exactly solid, you just have, like, a solid shell, so if you had enough force it is a giant lump of really warm clay, really warm green and blue clay at that. So I’m just going to be like, ‘Look, let’s just have, like, giant cosmic hands doing this. Like, I don’t know, maybe we’re using specially shaped primordial black holes? Why not? Giant chisels?’

Chelsea Whyte: Or it sounds like, like my first instinct was we need a cosmic chisel to slice off the faces of this cube but it sounds like it might be better to have, like, a mold, like a Playdough mold.

Mika McKinnon: Yes, and just smash it in.

Leah Crane: You know how they grow those, like, fancy watermelons?

Chelsea Whyte: Oh, yeah, the cube watermelon.

Mika McKinnon: Yeah.

Leah Crane: Could you just put a mold that’s gently squishing and wait? Because there is a lot of liquid.

Mika McKinnon: Yes, we can take the toddler approach and be like, round peg, square hole, we’re set. Just squish that nice, round planet into a square mold and push it down enough, then good enough.

Leah Crane: Oh great.

Mika McKinnon: So we’re going to take the same mass that we had before and if something kind of goes squishing out, that’s okay. It helps that the mantle of the Earth – so the Earth has the solid inner core, liquid outer core, then the big, gooey mantle and the tiny, thin little crust. And the tiny, thin, little crust is we’re just going to, like, shatter it like an egg shell on a freaking hard boiled egg, whatever, it doesn’t matter. We squish it then it will reform, it’s no big deal, we do that all the time.  The mantle-y bit, you’re probably thinking of it being like an ocean of lava because that’s how we draw it in text books but it’s not, it’s blue, and green, and gooey. So it’s more like oatmeal.

Chelsea Whyte: Literally blue and green?

Mika McKinnon: Yes, yes, yes, the inside of the Earth is blue and green. I mean, it’s really, really hot so it’s probably glowing red, but the rocks themselves are blue and green, if you had colour when completely surrounded by a solid which is like this whole philosophical problem of, like, what is the colour of the inside of a human, right? Like, are the insides of humans actually red or is it only red because you rip them open and take a peek? In this case we’re going to rip the planet open and take a peek so deep blue and green aside from the fact it’s glowing red hot. So, like, the whole concept of colour just kind of falls apart a bit. But, so blue and green squishy inside of the planet and we’ll just kind of squish it out and, like, the core will probably not get re-shaped during this.

Leah Crane: Once we cube it, it sounds like we’re going to probably have to wait a while for the crust to reform because every method we’ve thought of makes Earth, like, super unpleasant to be on for a bit. Like, you don’t want to be on the surface while we’re putting it in the mold.

Mika McKinnon: It’s okay because the earth is going to be super unpleasant no matter what for a while. So if we’re starting off and we’re going to try and keep things to be the same mass, then we end up with, like, a little cubical Earth with everything the same size in every direction, which it is not right now, like, you think Earth is a sphere, hey, we have a consistent radius. No, we don’t, we’re like a squished sphere that is actually really lumpy so it’s more like a potato. So we’re already going in to the realm of, like, hey, this is a more perfect planet than we have. But even if we squish everything, the gravity is still going to be pointing to the centre, so everything inside is still going to be all circular, so we’re still going to have, like, the magnetic field of the Earth, hot metal moving fast, it’s that our core is going to still generate a doughnut-shaped magnetic field. So you’re still going to get your northern and southern lights only above those parts of the cube. Oh, by the way, do we want to have the Earth rotating through a flat part? A face? Or do we want it rotating through a corner?

Chelsea Whyte: So, this was a good question that we were talking about. Like, yes, I think it’s interesting in both ways but I prefer, for some reason, aesthetically to be spinning through a corner. Like a little-

Leah Crane: I’m the exact opposite.

Chelsea Whyte: Yeah?

Leah Crane: I think that it’s a funner if it’s spinning like a cube because then you’ve got a whole edge that’s on the edge moving instead of just one little corner. You’ve got-

Chelsea Whyte: Also days would be really weird, right? Like all of a sudden the sun would hit an entire face if it was spinning with a-

Mika McKinnon: Oh yeah. Light and time are just going to be all over the place, but also magnetic fields are going to be all over the place because they’re still going to be doughnut-shaped, and that’s going to impact things like you still have your cosmic rays moving fast every time they hit the field, they light up, it’s like effectively northern and southern lights are this, like, ‘Hey, how you doing on hardening your electrical grid? It’s really beautiful and pretty up here, we’re ready to zap you all.’

So anything poking out of the magnetic field is not protected from the zappage, which is- we’ve talked about this in terms of concerns for when the Apollo missions happened we were like, ‘Hey, you know, just so everyone’s aware, if there’s, like, a coronal mass ejection towards the moon during the Apollo missions we’re just going to have a bunch of fried astronauts up there.’ And they had, like, the emergency speech set aside and everything. So that’s everything outside the magnetic field is just, kind of, death land.

Leah Crane: Screwed.

Mika McKinnon: Yes, well, I mean, it’s, you know, you can come up with ways to protect yourself from cosmic rays, like, you can wander around in giant tanks of water, would be one way of doing it. Or lead encasements.

Chelsea Whyte: I wish you could have seen our faces. That was incredible. I want to be in a giant tank of water.

Leah Crane: Fish tank, fish tank, fish tank!

Mika McKinnon: Yes, exactly.

Chelsea Whyte: One of my deep wishes is to live in the ocean, in the deep sea, and I could just take it with me.

Mika McKinnon: Exactly, and we talk about this in terms of, like, how would we do deep space exploration of humans, well, one of the things we have to talk about is how do we keep people protected when we’re going outside our magnetic field to somewhere else. And one of the concepts is, well, maybe you could just put all the water that you need anyway, put it on the outside of the spaceship, and store it on the outside to be a beautiful shield to absorb all the ways the universe is just trying to casually kill you as you explore deep space. So, we can do that. So, think about if you want to go outside the magnetic field you have to be in your little fish bowl or, like, giant lead aprons and X-ray machine style like, ‘Hey, let’s just put on the dentist robes and go for a stroll.’ But that’s not the only problem.

Chelsea Whyte: I prefer the fish bowl.

Leah Crane: Yeah, I want to cruise around in my all-terrain fish bowl.

Chelsea Whyte: So, let’s talk about what this would look like from afar. So that means we’d have this cubed planet but each face would have like a, like a half sphere, like a little contact lens of water on it. Is that right?

Mika McKinnon: Yes.

Chelsea Whyte: And then where would the atmosphere- would the atmosphere be also in that weird dome on each face?

Mika McKinnon: Yeah, so-

Chelsea Whyte: We’re living in the dome, we’re living in the dome in our fish bowls.

Leah Crane: We would have, like, six domes but they would not be connected.

Mika McKinnon: Yeah, there’d be six little domes on six little faces and each one would be surrounding a little sea, and if you look at the size of the ocean and you look at the size of the atmosphere and how much water and how much gas we’re working with here on Earth, we’re talking about all of humanity living in a little ten kilometre fringe around each of these lakes.

Chelsea Whyte: Incredible.

Mika McKinnon: So, space is defined by how much atmosphere you have, right? Like at some point you go high enough up that you’re like, ‘There’s not enough air, I’m in space.’ It’s not very high, it’s like 200 kilometres, right? And the edges of the cube are going to be, like, 1000 kilometres outside the atmosphere. So the edges of the cube will be in space by how we currently define things.

Leah Crane: We going to have to redefine space.

Mika McKinnon: Or we redefine spaceships so they have wheels, so you have a fish tank on wheels as your new spaceship because you can leave the atmosphere of your face, go up to the edge of the world, then go across the edge of the world to go explore the next isolated little bubble, right?

Chelsea Whyte: Imagine the tourism. Imagine it. I want to go on a trek to The Edge. Capital T, capital E, in my little fish bowl rover.

Leah Crane: I can picture it perfectly.

Chelsea Whyte: But gravity wouldn’t be that strong out there, would it?

Mika McKinnon: Well, you’d be dealing with mountaineering problems. So, going to space would also be mountaineering. It’d effectively be like Everest on extreme ends because gravity’s going to keep pointing towards the centre, but the centre when you’ve got a square is at an angle. So, when you’re at the- like, if you’re in the centre of the ocean, gravity’s pointing straight down. But by the time you get to the edges of the lake or of the sea, it’s going to be at a bit of an angle and you’re going to be, kind of, constantly walking uphill or downhill. Even though the surface is flat, your gravity is not. Your gravity is at an angle and the further you get from the centre, the bigger that angle gets.

You’ve only got, like- it’s a ten kilometre fringe so you can cross the entire width of your available coastline, breathable area, in, like, a two hour stroll. I mean, walking around the lake would take longer but you’ve got a very short distance before you’re going to need your fish bowl to keep going. Your, like, little oxygen bubble inside of a fish bowl on wheels to go to space. And the further you go towards the edge, the steeper your angle is going to be. We’re going to know that the edges exist because the horizon, if you’re in the middle of the ocean, the first thing you’re going to see is going to be the corners of the cube. And you’re going to be able to see them from, like, I think the fish bowl, or the little ocean lenses are, I think about 300 kilometres across. And if you’re in them, as long as you’re within 150 kilometres of the edge, or of the coastline, so as long as you’re not in the dead centre, if you’re, like, halfway to shore, you will be able to see a corner. But it’s not until you’re within, like, ten kilometres of shore, maybe fifteen kilometres of shore, that you’ll be able to see the flat areas actually nearby. So you won’t be able to see the human-inhabited portion unless you’re almost at the coast. You’ll only be able to see these corners jagging off, that are way out there, and have no air and no inhabitation, they’re just rock. So you see, like, these mountains off to the sides.

Chelsea Whyte: Would this look like a very large mountain or would it take up more of the sky?

Mika McKinnon: So, I’ve been trying to decide on that one and I think to some extent we’re going to have to play around with some optical effects here because right, like, you could tell things were flat, one of the first places you can tell that we have a round planet is in the ocean where you’ve got these beautiful horizons going on, and you can tell what’s going on with, like, sunsets and sunrises, why we have blue skies and red skies, from how much atmosphere you’re looking through. But that all gets muddled up when you’re dealing with, like, this tiny little bubble happening. And I think that you would end up still getting your red sunsets, but they’d be really close.

Leah Crane: It seems like it would be easier to do rocket launches from cube Earth, right? Because you have all those nice corners with no atmosphere.

Mika McKinnon: Instead of having all of our space ports at the equator like we do now where we can use the earth’s rotation to, like, fling things in to space, we’d instead probably have a two-stage spacecraft where stage one would be wheels and go to the corner of the earth, and stage two would be launch from the corner into orbit. And if you’re really lucky you can also do it with the rotations happening – depending where you have the axis of the Earth, you could shape it to be able to get that little gravitational assist anyway.

Leah Crane: I wonder if we got someone with mad hops, if they could jump off the corner of the earth in to space.

Mika McKinnon: If we could do, like trampolining?

Chelsea Whyte: Yeah, I want to pogo-stick into space.

Leah Crane: Oh my god.

Mika McKinnon: And we’re still dealing with the- it’s not that much lower, unfortunately.

Chelsea Whyte: Okay.

Leah Crane: Dang.

Chelsea Whyte: But these edges would also be, like, incredible places to do a whole lot of science. Like, I’m just thinking, put all the telescopes out there, right? Outside of the atmosphere.

Mika McKinnon: Oh, yeah, you have no atmosphere going on, you could actually walk out and repair them instead of having to deal with, like, the poor Hubble space telescope just slowly disintegrating as its stabilisers- you don’t have to worry about stabilisers. You have less gravity so you don’t have to deal with the mirrors warping as much. You have really predictable light cycles happening.

Leah Crane: Super- with a sharp edge.

Mika McKinnon: Yes, and you could do things like pick a corner and have a telescope on each side of the corner to have full coverage. And they could even share, like, a little processing centre just like we do in Antarctica right now. So yeah, you could do some really cool science with that.

Leah Crane: That seems pretty rad. I will say that it seems to me, and this might not be true, Mika, we’ll need your input, but it seems like if we’re cubing Earth and then we’re going to put some telescopes and stuff on there, it does seem like earthquakes might be a problem because of how much we’ve screwed up the planet.

Mika McKinnon: Yeah, I would say there’d definitely be a lot of, like, surface level earthquakes going on during the time where everything was cooling. All the bits that we destroyed would be cooling down and crunching, and as they cooled and crunched they would contract and you’d get some earthquakes from that but they’d be, you know, relatively surface-level earthquakes. But the whole planet would be trying to relax from a cube back into a sphere so it would always be trying to have, like, the corners crumble in and the flat bits bulge out unless we’re keeping it in our mold. So you’d definitely have some fairly large earthquakes from that as it’s all just trying to sag out. So I’d recommend we come up with, like, an Earth sized pair of Spanx to shove it in. Keep it, like, forcefielded into place. Because after you go through all the effort of building a cubical planet you, kind of, want to keep it.

Chelsea Whyte: Yeah.

Leah Crane: I like the idea of shapewear but the shape is a cube.

Mika McKinnon: Look, everyone has their own aesthetic preferences, we do no shaming here.

Chelsea Whyte: Okay, we’re going to have to end it there, but we’re not done at all. We had so much more conversation with Mika that we’re coming back tomorrow with Cube Earth, Part II, the last episode of season one.

Leah Crane: We’ll get into how Cube Earth is just mega-Australia, the absolutely wild climate that’ll happen there, and the inevitable sea monsters that cubing the earth would create.

Chelsea Whyte: Thanks again to Mika McKinnon for joining us, and to all of you for listening. If you have any questions or ideas for destroying the universe, get in touch at

Leah Crane: Or if you just want to chat about what Cube Earth would be like, you can find us on X – I’m @downhereonearth and Chelsea is @chelswhyte. Bye!

Transcript, part two

Mika McKinnon: We’ve just built Australia. We’ve built a lot of Australias.

Chelsea Whyte: So, Australians are going to thrive in Cube Earth. They already know how to do this.

Leah Crane: Welcome back to Australia, I mean, Cube Earth, I mean, Dead Planets Society.

Chelsea Whyte: This is a podcast where we imagine what it might be like if we were given cosmic powers to re-arrange the universe. I’m Chelsea Whyte, US editor at New Scientist.

Leah Crane: And I’m Leah Crane, physics and space reporter at New Scientist. And we’re back for part two of Cube Earth, which is our final episode this season.

Chelsea Whyte: That’s right, but don’t worry – we’ll be back with season two in a little while. We’re not going to be gone for too long. But let’s get back to it. In the last episode, we were talking with geophysicist Mika McKinnon about Cube Earth.

Leah Crane: The best planet.

Chelsea Whyte: It’s my favourite of all the planets that exist in our mind, yes. So, this is the earth that we’ve reformed into a cube. Listen to the last episode if you want to find out how we got it cube-shaped.

Leah Crane: So when we cube-ify earth, we’re left with six sides, each of which has a big lake in the middle and a small area of coastline around each lake that’s habitable.

Chelsea Whyte: And the atmosphere would get wacky too, the edges would be out in space so we’d need space suits or, as we discussed, little fish bowls of water on wheels that would protect us from cosmic rays.

Leah Crane: So let’s jump back in and talk more about what it would be like on Cube Earth. Spoiler, there are sea monsters.

Chelsea Whyte: And time gets a little nuts. Let’s hop back into our conversation with Mika.

Leah Crane: There’s some messy time dilation happening, right, because of gravitational stuff.

Chelsea Whyte: Yeah, and also assuming that it’s oriented with a north pole and south pole flat face, like how would we experience time and then what would time be like more broadly?

Mika McKinnon: Yeah. Yeah, this is a little bit challenging. On the upside to the first order of approximation, if we’re going to keep the earth still the same mass, and I assume we want to keep it the same 24 hour spin. So, to first order approximation, it’d be no more disturbing than dealing with leap seconds and time zones already. We already do weird things to time.

Chelsea Whyte: Which, can I just say, is already very disturbing to me.

Mika McKinnon: Yeah, but you don’t notice it on a daily basis. It’s only because we have clocks that it’s a problem. Like, I just vote no clocks.

Chelsea Whyte: I also vote this. Mika, yes, turn off time.

Mika McKinnon: It would be much simpler if you have a cubical face because you’re going to have, like, flash sunrises, just don’t deal with time zones when you have a flat Earth side.

Leah Crane: We’d need six time zones.

Chelsea Whyte: Well, we’d need four time zones and then the top and the bottom would have to have more traditional time zones, right?

Leah Crane: So, we’d need five time zones – we’d need one for the top and bottom

Mika McKinnon: Well, they could do Antarctic style. Because right now, in Antarctica, you don’t really deal with time. You just pick a time and you’re like, ‘That’s our time zone.’ Otherwise, you can walk between time zones, which would also be a problem when you’re got a ten-kilometre-wide loop around a lake. Time would not really, you’d really have some issues going on. And then having to coordinate between the faces, but trying to actually talk between the faces, you couldn’t bounce radio waves off the atmosphere like you do now. So, you couldn’t have communication between the sides until you’ve physically gone exploring to them. And you’d have to be motivated to go exploring over the edge instead of up the mountain. Like, which would be more appealing?

Leah Crane: Could I burrow through the edge? And just lay a circle of fibre optic cable underground, connecting all of our settlements?

Mika McKinnon: You’d probably just want to do it above ground with maybe a little layer on dirt on top. Because otherwise you’re trying to do- you’d want to do deep sea cables, effectively, is how we do our linking between continents now. But again, you’re not going to do that until you’ve gone exploring. And the exploring to the other faces, I think, just based on human nature, would happen a lot later than the exploring to the mountaintops. Because the mountaintops, the cube edges would be just looming. They’d be this thing on the horizon that we can always see over there. It wouldn’t be up above our heads, or whatever, but it would be just a presence, a large presence, as opposed to falling off the edge of the world.

Leah Crane: Maybe we’d run into each other there. It’s like people from the different faces would run into each other on the peaks.

Chelsea Whyte: ‘Where did you come from?’

Mika McKinnon: And they’d be these very isolated sections, right? Like, the whole concept of island evolution, where if you cut off ecosystems and leave them in one place, we’ve done that on six separate sides of which, if we’re doing our flat poles, then you have effectively four sides that have the same climates. It’d be the same climate as, the same concept of Earth weather now, just way more extreme. Except for, the equator would still have equatorial zones of weather and all that. And the poles would have bigger storms, except for the atmosphere doesn’t really travel all the way up to the poles. So, you have it all crunched down into these extremes, where you tease now about being able to walk between summer and winter, like, in springtime you can have all seasons in the day in March or whatever. Well, literally being able to walk from one side to the other would be like, ‘It’s cold. It’s hot. It’s raging storms all of the time.’ I really hope that if we’ve got the technology to create cubical Earth, we’ve also got the technology to do some climate maintenance, because it would make our current situation look really easy in terms of severe storms to have everything crunched down that tiny.

Leah Crane: You had mentioned that it’s like island evolution. We’ve got these four or six, depending on how we’re oriented. Little islands of atmosphere that are on their own. And what that makes me think is that we’re going to have a lot of weird birds. And I know this isn’t necessarily relevant to the podcast, but Australia has a lot of weird birds. And we’re basically making a lot of Australias.

Chelsea Whyte: That’s what I thought of too, immediately.

Mika McKinnon: Well, and that Australia is pretty much, you have to live buster to the coast because it gets rapidly inhospitable the further inland you get. So, same sort of concept is, we’ve just built Australia. We’ve built a lot of Australias.

Chelsea Whyte: So, Australians are going to thrive in Cube Earth. They already know how to do this.

Leah Crane: To be fair, I think Australians do tend to thrive wherever they end up. We’ve talked a bit about the coast but what about the oceans themselves.?

Mika McKinnon: And the oceans will be really, really, really, deep. We’re talking hundreds of kilometres deep, as opposed to a handful of kilometres deep.

Chelsea Whyte: Does that we would allow for the evolution of even scarier deep sea creatures?

Mika McKinnon: Oh, yes.

Leah Crane: This Cube Earth is going to have crazy birds and crazy fishes, and I kind of hate it.

Mika McKinnon: That was where I wanted to go with this, is that we have this tiny little bubble of air and a huge bubble of water that’s really deep. So, most of the habitable area of this planet is going to be underwater or possibly on top of the water. So, I’m thinking that floating islands would be the place to be, for the most part.

Chelsea Whyte: We’ve just made water world, haven’t we?

Mika McKinnon: That’s where I think we’re going with it. But the deep ocean is going to be, like, really deep. And with less gravity towards the edges, you could get even bigger creatures. So, I’m kind of thinking the whole behemoths issue of, like, megalodon.

Leah Crane: It’s going to be full of krakens.

Mika McKinnon: Ichthyosaurs, and yeah – we’ll have Loch Ness monsters, the whole works. The sea monster aspect of this planet has, like, a lot of potential.

Chelsea Whyte: I got to tell you, when we first thought about Cube Earth, I did not see that we were creating this insane planet with sea monsters. But I’m very excited that we’ve gotten here. I didn’t know the horrors we would unleash.

Mika McKinnon: It’s a submarine Australia.

Leah Crane: The whole thing is just a mega Australia. You know we’re going to have some crazy spiders.

Mika McKinnon: Yeah. One of the things that’s really, really fun to do in actual, real-life Australia is to go hunting for ocean fossils in the centre of the desert because it used to have a giant, in-land sea. So, you can wander around looking for fossils and meteors and things in the centre of the Australian desert. You can even catch a mail truck and go around and hop off on the side and be like, ‘Let’s go looking for fossils.’ And it’s Australia, so everybody who lives in the way outback is a geologist and an astronomer as a hobby. So, I’m thinking we should take ancient interior Australian oceans as part of our inspiration for what do we think that the ecospheres will look like. But again, you’re going to have those isolated six spaces and the ocean creatures are certainly not going to mix between them, so you’re really going to have island effects. So, when we talk about, ‘Hey, you’re going to have krakens.’ Well, you’ll have krakens on this space but you’ll have the Loch Ness monster on this other face. And each one is going to have different sets. And I bet you that you’d have, okay, so maybe the mammals are dominant on this side but maybe it’s actually the giant alligators that are dominant on this other side. And then the humans who are trying to cling to their little fringe are going to have different reactions and techniques for dealing with their particular sea monsters.

Leah Crane: I love this so much.

Chelsea Whyte: So, in my mind, I’ve imagined that the sea that we used to have, the ocean all over normal, round, boring Earth, contracts quite a bit when we create the cube. So, would we be left with things we could never see before on the edge? Would the edge have remnants of ancient history that have been uncovered?

Leah Crane: The edge would have hella fossils.

Mika McKinnon: Oh, and you can go hunting for dinosaur bones out there. Again, Australia already does this. Except  for the small itty bitty problem of when we’ve been cramming it in, we’ve been really mucking with the crust. And we definitely want to, I think, plan our axis to preserve Australia. I think that might actually determine where axis is going to be.

Leah Crane: Between the sea monsters and the weird, airless edges and the six Australias, this planet seems honestly extremely rad.

Chelsea Whyte: Yes, I mean it sounds really cool. But I’m also guessing maybe weather would be pretty tough?

Leah Crane: Yeah, sure. Especially since day and night are flashing into each other so quickly.

Chelsea Whyte: Yeah, I mean think about that moment when the face that you’re on suddenly sees no more sunlight. That seems really terrifying. And also probably pretty uncomfortable. So, we asked Mika if the weather is going to just be wild all over this Cube Earth.

Mika McKinnon: We’re amping up the seasons and we’re amping up the weather. So, when we talk right now about how climate change is creating these more extreme events more often, like we’re getting storms that build up faster and that they’re more intense. That we’re having more extreme seasons of it’s either really, really hot or really, really cold and all that. Just take all that in and amplify it even more. So, you’re having it really extreme all of the time, which is going to do things like make growing seasons really difficult, except if you go underwater because giant ponds of water act as stabilisers and the deeper you go, the more stable it is.

Leah Crane: Oh, we’re all going to be, like, eating seaweed.

Mika McKinnon: Well, SEALAB is where I’m going with this. I think that the people who have, like, the most stability are going to be SEALABS. And we were talking before about our spaceships are going to be on wheels with fishbowls. Our most stable and desirable housing will be under the water on the sea floor, or at least probably actually bubbles at a certain depth, where we can get a pretty good atmospheric pressure going on and you still have some light coming because being in perpetual darkness is no fun. But you’re stabilised from all of the extremes of the surface. And then you have, you know, giant sea monsters coming past periodically. So, SEALAB is our next big motivation, inspiration point.

Leah Crane: Is move-in ready? I’ll take it. I’ll go tomorrow.

Chelsea Whyte: Send me to the ocean on Cube Earth. Give me gills. I’ll just live in the water. Like, I’m good.

Mika McKinnon: Well, what this really, truly gets to, as the ultimate conclusion, is that when people debate which is scarier or which is more interesting, deep space or the deep ocean- with Cube Earth, you get to combine the two.

Chelsea Whyte: It’s perfect.

Leah Crane: And also, the deep sea is unarguably scarier than deep space.

Mika McKinnon: Except for you’re going to have both. Especially when you’re trying to explore deep space via wheels in a fish bowl.

Chelsea Whyte: So, what you’ve said is, we’ve made the scariest planet, is what we’ve done.

Mika McKinnon: I really appreciate approachable doom.

Leah Crane: This is the scariest planet.

Chelsea Whyte: Thank you for joining us for the conclusion of Cube Earth and for the final episode of our first season of Dead Planets Society.

Leah Crane: Now we have to go, because we’ve got a cosmic juicer and an asteroid gong and an Earth cuber to build.

Chelsea Whyte: And now that we know how, we’re off to turn the moon into the biggest piece of art that ever existed. Thanks again to Mika McKinnon and to all of you for listening. And for those of you that sent in ideas for modifications that we could make to the universe, we’re sifting through topics for season two and we’ll be back in a bit to do some more cosmic destruction.

Leah Crane: If you enjoyed this season of Dead Planet Society, you might also like my monthly space newsletter at New Scientist, Launchpad. Check it out at

Chelsea Whyte: That’s all folks! Goodbye for now.

Leah Crane: Bye.