Everything Is Beautiful From A Distance
We have crises aplenty with which to attend already! Now, comes some startling news of eternal proportions related to the latest tragedy in Chile. CNN reported (March 2, 2010), "The massive earthquake (8.8 magnitude) that struck Chile on Saturday may have shifted the Earth's axis and created shorter days, scientists at NASA say."
NASA confirmed the change is negligible, but permanent. In other words, each day from now on should be 1.26 microseconds shorter, according to preliminary calculations. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.
The reason? A large quake shifts massive amounts of rock and alters the distribution of mass on the planet.
When that distribution changes, it changes the rate at which the planet rotates. And the rotation rate determines the length of a day. If figures are correct, the quake should have moved Earth's figure axis (the axis about which Earth's mass is balanced) by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters, or 3 inches).
“It’s what we call the ice-skater effect,” David Kerridge, head of Earth hazards and systems at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, said. “As the ice skater puts when she’s going around in a circle, and she pulls her arms in, she gets faster and faster. It’s the same idea with the Earth going around if you change the distribution of mass, the rotation rate changes.” (Alex Morales, Business Week, March 1 2010)
But, on the other hand, the length of a day also can increase. For example, if the Three Gorges reservoir in China were filled, it would hold 10 trillion gallons (40 cubic kilometers) of water. The shift of mass would lengthen days by 0.06 microsecond, scientists said.
So, being the scientifically impaired person I am, I wonder what this means.
According to tons of research by Arbab I. Arbab ("The Length of the Day: A Cosmological Perspective," Progress In Physics, January 1 2009), "We have found an empirical law for the variation of the length of the Earth's day with geologic time employing Wells's data. We attribute the lengthening of the Earth's day to the present cosmic expansion of the Universe. The prediction of law has been found to be in agreement with the astronomical and geological data. The day increases at a present rate of 0.002 sec/century." The length of the day was found to be 6 hours when the Earth formed. We have also found a new limit for the value of the Hubble constant and the age of the Universe (Whatever that means).
Six hour days when the Earth was formed? What is the actual length of a 24 hour day now? What will the length of a day be by the end of the 21st Century? Does anybody really know what time it is or what age they are? I'm so confused that I've been reduced to speculation -- I think if earthquakes keep up their tremendous present frequency, I'll be older much sooner, but if this Arbab guy knows anything, I may be younger than I think.
The truth of the matter seems to be that just a few wise scientists can factor in all the variables that count in an equation for the actual length of a day. Wouldn't it be easier for everyone on Earth to move to the exact spot for one day a year that would put the Earth back on its needed distribution of mass? Now, that would be fun and a hell of an international party. We could call it "Masses for Axis."
When I see photography of the planet Earth beamed from outer space, one thing always occurs to me. The Earth looks so serene, perfectly balanced, and beautiful from a distance that all its creations and inhabitants must be totally dependent on faith. Our little round speck of the Universe is infinitesimal and largely insignificant in perspective to the entire panorama. I long to see this in person from such a distance, and I am certain such an event would forever change my perspective on life and time.
As I age, the clocks of time and the pace of life mean less and less with passing days. Maybe the length of a day is just a way of expressing nothing really. The only true measure of time is the inevitable wear of the soul's framework. Separate timers count down within us all as our bodies continually change, most often unnoticeable to the naked eye until the passage of years. The concept of change, itself, is reassuring and completely natural to our beings.
So, I guess I will live my remaining days within the framework of their variable length. With no other choice, I think a little tilting every now and then is inevitable and not within anyone's control. I only pray poor people do not suffer and die in the planetary movement. And, it just proves once more what Bob Dylan wrote many years ago, "The times they are a changin.'" Maybe not so much this go-around with social and political upheaval, but through the Divine hand.
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
Bob Dylan, "The Times They Are A-Changin'" 1964