Monday, February 16, 2015

What Will Happen When the Earth Stops Spinning?

We were taught in primary school that our Earth spins, and we accept it as a fact, but could you every imagine a world where the Earth stops spinning? In the National Geography program Aftermath, scientists explored an interesting topic: What will happen if Earth slows down and eventually stops spinning in five years? I would like to share with you this novel idea and its unimaginable consequences.

Our solar system was born 4.5 billion years ago from a spinning cloud of gas and dust. Because angular momentum is conserved, when the planets formed from this spinning cloud, they themselves spun, and they continue to spin to this day. The Earth is turning more than sixteen hundred kilometers a hour but is gradually slowing down, at a rate of about two seconds every 100,000 years. What if this rate were to greatly increase?

At first with only a minor decrease in the speed of spinning, disasters begin to occur. The Global Positioning System, or GPS, relies on satellites and satellites are in geosynchronous orbit: they are at a height above the Earth such that they orbit the Earth once per day, making them stay on top of a single point. These satellites don’t expect the Earth to slow and eventually start orbiting faster than the Earth spins, leading to a chaos in the entire GPS system. Computers lead airplanes far from their original routes, and hundreds and thousands of people are at risk when pilots suddenly find out that their navigation system is not working. What immediately comes afterwards is the failure of the travel industries bringing an unimaginable global economic crisis.

As the Earth’s spin slows more, worse catastrophes hit our planet. Our Earth is fatter in the middle than at the poles. Spinning causes both land and water to bulge outwards at the equator, due to centripetal force. But as that force weakens, seawater starts moving away from the bulging equator towards the poles, and a billion cubic kilometers of water is on the move, flooding cities on the way, making them uninhabitable.

As the sea level changes the very air we breath is changing too. Our atmosphere is evenly spread across the planet. And it rotates along with the Earth.As the earth slows down, the atmosphere follows the oceans toward the pole. Among the first hit cities in the tropics are Rio de Janeiro and Singapore, where it gets harder to breathe. People living at higher altitudes are also starting to feel the struggle. Humans can begin to feel altitude sickness at less than 2,500 meters and just over 5000 meters is the outer limit of survival.

In many areas of the world thin air and flooding are not yet taking lives, and people are coping. But as the Earth slows more, suddenly all over the world their is a more deadly problem—earthquakes where there have never been earthquakes before. The Earth has 3 layers and they all rotate together. But as our spin decreases each layer slows at a different speed, unleashing massive fiction. The Earth literally tearing itself apart from inside.

Water is flooding from the south and air is thinning from the north and earth is tearing from below, soon there will be no place suitable for people to live. Eventually there would be only one climate, no more wind and no more pressure, everything being controlled by the sun. And with one last hit, being that with longer nights the temperature drops to lower than minus 50 degrees, the only thing people could do is wait for their doom.
- Zhichuan Duan