Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Astronomical and Metaphysical Consequences of Earthquakes

"The problem set forth by the [Royal Berlin] Academy [of Sciences] is expressed in the following terms: Whether the Earth in its Rotation around its Axis, by which it brings about the alternation of day and night, has undergone any alteration since the first period of its origin. What may be the cause of this, and what can make us certain of it? The question may be investigated historically. This may be done by examining monuments of antiquity dating from remotest times...." -- Immanuel Kant, natural philosopher, 1754

Scientific American: How the Earthquake in Chile Could Change Earth's Axis.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that jolted Chile on Saturday was felt as far away as São Paulo. But NASA scientists are proposing that its repercussions are truly global in a geophysical sense: it likely shifted the Earth's axis by about eight centimeters.

Such a shift would have the effect of shaking as much as 1.26 microseconds off of the Earth's daily rotation, noted NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Richard Gross in an agency release.

Those microseconds (each one millionth of a second) might not sound like a lot, and they probably will not change your sleep patterns or birthday, but they do accumulate. And as such a change will be permanent, over the decades and eons, it will eventually amount to a trickle of "lost" time. (If the scientists' early estimates are on target, this quake's impact, however, will take about 130,500 years to shear off a full minute.)

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