The Earth rotates so fast that it can create a problem for time


Scientists and mathematicians who track the speed of the Earth’s rotation are considering the possibility that our planet is rotating so fast that it can bring down time. It’s not as terrible as it might seem, but it would be unprecedented. Historical models of the Earth’s rotation behave as expected, but some recent outliers show that we may be having too much fun as time really flies.

The study of the Earth’s rotation speeds focuses on a concept known as the “length of the day.” This term can simply be explained by the formula — this is the time for which the Earth makes one revolution, minus 86,400 seconds, that is, the number of seconds in 24 hours. Therefore, the length of the day minus 1 second will mean that the Earth completed a revolution (or, as we usually call it, a day) in 86,399 seconds. In fact, this is an impressive example, because our fluctuations in the actual length of the day are measured in milliseconds or even fractions of them, so this data is measured by several groups of people studying physical sciences.

No one knows why the Earth’s speed fluctuates, but the data shows that it has been a constant variable for decades when humanity measured it. Over time, the Earth’s rotation rate has decreased, but there are bursts of faster and shorter days, and we have reached the highest peaks in the last three years. The Time and Date website reports that our shortest day in 2020 was -1.47 milliseconds, but we broke this record as of June 29, 2022, showing -1.59.

The speed of the Earth is a potential problem for time itself

Over the past few decades, our planetary day length has increased, which means that each day has been slightly longer on average. This recorded phenomenon has led to the mind-boggling, little-known existence of an extra second. As the name suggests, we add one second to one December night approximately every 1.5 years to keep our clocks in sync with the physical rotation of the planet. This has been happening since at least 1972, and by the end of 2022 we had another accelerated transition planned without consent, but it has since been canceled due to our recent slight increase in speed.

So, although we won’t add a second this year, the faster rotation of the Earth is not so extreme as to force us to subtract a second… while. If this had happened, we would have experienced a negative leap year and would have gone back one second instead of forward. Scientists suggest that this is incredibly unlikely, but it remains a technological complication that humanity is not ready for. This will complicate data management and information technology systems around the world, especially those that require data synchronization over time for security or logistics purposes. This (probably) won’t lead to the end of the world, but it will be a big enough deviation from the norm, so we will at least have to redo the code in most online networks. Fortunately, the Earth is still slowing down on average, even though these random, shorter days and times remain the same.


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