The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason

Intriguing title, no? These are the first eleven words of Neal Stephenson’s novel Seveneves, which set up the remaining 600 pages as an extended treatise on the future of humanity as it copes with certain annihilation. I thoroughly recommend it, as long as you can deal with hundreds of pages of orbital mechanics. In this post I will numerically explore this post-lunar age, to verify for myself if it would be as deadly as described.

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On which shaped planet am I the heaviest?

Continuing on from my last post concerning optimisation and Lagrange multipliers, I came across a neat little paper on the arXiv here, which asks and answers the question: what shape should a planet be to maximise the gravitational force at a given position? This is a fun problem, solved using an extension of the techniques from the last post, namely the use of Lagrange multipliers to optimise a function given some constraint.

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