It’s “back to school” season, the time when all of us parents send our children out the door with fresh haircuts and new shoes and say to ourselves and anyone who will listen things like “time is moving so fast!”
It turns out this is true in more than just a sentimental, figurative sense.
A new study revealed that the earth is spinning faster than usual and in fact just recorded its fastest day ever (this according to CBS News).
“Since 2016 the Earth started to accelerate,” said scientist Leonid Zotov, who published the study. “This year it rotates quicker than in 2021 and 2020.” The increase in speed apparently began in 2016.
June 29, 2022, just a few days ago, was recorded as the shortest day ever, clocking in at 1.59 millisecond less than the average day (which is 24 hours, of course, or 86,400 seconds)
So, not an increment of time you would notice, but an increase all the same.
None of this is a real “problem” so far, but if the speed continues to increase, whoever decides these sorts of things may need to consider adding a “negative leap second.” This is similar to a leap year, in which a day is added, but would involve clocks skipping a second to keep our measurement of time more in line with the physical reality of it.
But why the change in speed?
They’re not sure, but the group behind the study believes it could be due to the fluctuations in tides due to melting ice caps on top of the earth’s highest mountain peaks. Two engineers for Meta working on these problems, Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi, explain it this way:
“It is all about the law of conservation of momentum that applies to our planet Earth. Every atom on the planet contributes to the momentum of the earth’s angular velocity based on the distance to the rotation axis of the earth…So, once things move around, the angular velocity of the earth can vary.”
“Every atom on the planet contributes” to the earth’s momentum.
There’s a sentence for you.
What do we make of all this? Well, after getting past the sheer precision of this measurement, which alone boggles my mind, I’ve been sitting with this notion that we all, even in some infinitesimal way, have a bearing on the momentum of this world.
Not even in some potentially loosy-goosy pop-spiritual sense (though I believe this is true, too), but in the hard, data-driven, quantifiable sense, and with something as cosmic as the spinning of the earth on its axis.
The great lie we tell ourselves in more ways than we realize is that what we do doesn’t matter. Who we are and the choices we make, in the end, don’t matter. Of course, the witness of scripture, over and over again, tells us otherwise. As does the witness of our very lives, if we would pay closer attention.
And yet here we have yet another case when science confirms what we already should know and know well, but insist on living as if it isn’t so.
It all matters. Every little bit, every little part.
I mean this to be hopeful, not crushing. But so much of life depends on how we choose to carry things.
What I mean is that I find it finally hopeful that what we do, how we treat people, what we give, where and in whom we invest our lives in the time we are given on this earth that indeed is spinning faster and faster, does, in fact, matter.
The question then becomes, where will we throw our momentum?