Pacific Rim Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising - the wall to save the world

Image credit: Universal Pictures

March 2018 will see the release of ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’, five years after the first ‘Pacific Rim’ film. In the first in a new series, we sift out the likely from the laughable as we look at how feasible the on-screen technology really is.

Immersion in a good film is one of the joys of life. In the case of science-fiction this often means both accepting and marvelling at the technology that is invented by the film makers. However, inhabiting the world of technology, as E&T readers do, can be a curse. What is a perfectly feasible flying car to one person may, to an engineer, be a ridiculous affront with no attempt to address the fundamental laws of physics, consequently ruining the film.

March 2018 will see the release of ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’, five years after the first ‘Pacific Rim’ film was produced. In the first in a new series, we sift out the likely from the laughable as we look at how feasible the on-screen technology really is.

It’s the 2020s and monsters are coming from the deep, specifically the Pacific Ocean, with what can only be described as deeply unpleasant motives. Like wiping out humanity.

It turns out these monsters, called Kaiju, are actually using some quirk in the fabric of space to appear in the Marianas Trench – at 11km, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. Springing through this portal, the alien monsters launch attacks on the coastal cities around the Pacific.

Defence against these beasts was either through the Wall of Life, which would contain the Kaiju, or through Jaegers – fighting robots designed to match the monsters.

The dimensions or construction of the Wall of Life were not detailed in the first film, but the pictures suggest it is about as tall as the Sydney Opera House, which puts it at 65m high and perhaps 40m wide. Construction is of steel and reinforced concrete. However, it needs to be completed. There is no point in having a wall with gaps – it would be like having a lion enclosure at the zoo with an open gate. Soon you would have no lions at the zoo - or people.

The eastern coast of the Pacific runs from Alaska to Cape Horn in Chile – that is a 30,000km-long journey on the Pan American Highway, to give you an idea of distance.

The coast is longer down the western side and goes over a substantial amount of open water, all of which must be blocked. The Drake Passage, for example, separates Cape Horn from Antarctica and is typically 4-5km deep. It would also have to block the currents that rampage unfettered around the Southern Ocean. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current through the Drake Passage is in the region of 120 million cubic metres per second. With icebergs for ammunition, this would make for a challenging construction site.

With our total Pacific Rim wall being in the region of 90,000km long, it would require a substantial amount of steel alone. Using sturdy construction methods for building a 20-storey office building, which would be in the region of 65m high, a weight of steel can be calculated based on 1m2 floor area contributing an average 60kg of steel in beams, bracing and columns. For a 40m section of the wall, this works out as 96 tonnes, and so a 90,000km wall would use something in the region of 216 million tonnes of steel.

However, there are huge stretches of water between land, particularly around the western stretches of the Pacific Rim and, as mentioned, these would need to be protected. Using Drake’s Passage again, and scaling a wall so that the base is in proportion to our surface wall, the wall’s dimensions are now 3,500m high, 2,150m across the base and the 800km length of Drake’s Passage. Using the same formula, this now requires 1.7 trillion tonnes of steel.

So already we are nearly at two trillion tonnes of steel without joining up Antarctica, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and continental Asia. Annual production is currently 1.6 trillion tonnes of steel. In short, even if we did have the technology to build such a wall, particularly the deep-sea version, we don’t have enough natural resources or capacity to make it.

It should also be pointed out that, even without the advantages of opposable thumbs, the Kaiju creatures have developed the technology required to invent a portal through space and, therefore, it can be assumed that they could work out how to go over a wall. Ultimately this was not necessary, as a grade IV Kaiju (the earlier ones were much smaller grade II and III) avoided the problem by going right through the wall in Sydney.

The wall that could not be built didn’t work anyway.

It was the Jaegers, guided by their heroic pilots, that won the day in the first film. These robots were powered by nuclear reactors, which makes sense in terms of the power source. Also, as these robots were effectively the size of nuclear submarines, the technology is already with us. Whether we would want a nuclear source thrust into battle, with the considerable risk that it may be damaged and could leak, is another thing.

The neural links between man and machine in ‘Pacific Rim’ are not available yet, but the human-controlled giant mechanoid is under development. The weapons essentially involved using power devices to add beef to its already mighty punch or fairly regular military weapons. The Jaegers, then, were more realisable than the Wall, given today’s technology and resources, and, it turned out, more effective with respect to Kaiju killing.

Is a human the ideal fighting shape, though? Or, if we were to design from scratch, would we come up with something more efficient – like a tiger? Or a tank?

In ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’, the Kaiju are back. They are bigger than ever, there are more of them, and they clearly mean business.

We will have to wait until 23 March 2018 to find out if the Jaegers are still enough to defend the world.

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