Tuesday, May 17, 2011

If the World Stopped Spinning

What a nice sentiment (courtesy of xkcd). But what if her plan succeeds too well, and the world grinds to a halt?

With the aid of GIS computing, a couple scientists predict that if the centrifugal force due to Earth's rotation were to disappear, the oceans would surge to the poles, forming two new polar oceans divided by one equatorial supercontinent. Europe and Canada would be flooded, and the Great Lakes would merge with the ocean.

Over at Reddit, there is a discussion about what would happen if the Earth stopped spinning instantaneously. The verdict: you would suddenly be traveling at 1000 mph relative the ground, which is surely enough to kill you, but not fast enough to send you into orbit (escape velocity for the Earth is 25000 mph).

In this ridiculous scenario, you'd think that the safest place to be would be on an airplane flying above any nearby mountains, but if the atmosphere stops spinning along with the rest of the Earth, you will be on a plane moving up to 1000 mph faster than it was before! Maybe Boeing's engineers have thought of that, but I'd still rather not be the first to try it out. What if the atmosphere doesn't stop spinning along with the Earth? Then the air will crash into mountains and rub violently against the ground, possibly forming huge gusts of wind. Instead of flying on a plane, you're better off standing right on the North or South poles, where you might feel yourself get dizzy, but nothing more.

Physics is cool. If you still don't think so, here's a video of some pendulums dancing.

See you in a couple Earth-rotations,


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