Science

The world is spinning faster than usual

The world is spinning faster than usual
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If the days seem to be getting shorter; They are and have been since the summer solstice in June. But Earth recently recorded its shortest day for an entirely different and unusual reason—the Earth is spinning faster. Scientists have found this development puzzling, though they have some theories about why it’s happening and what impact it might have on our lives.

Close up shot of a woman checking the time on her smartwatch.
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June 29, 2022 was 1.59 milliseconds shorter than the average day, scientist Leonid Zotov told CBS News. The normal length of a day is 24 hours or 86,400 seconds. But in the past few years, Earth’s rotation has increased, cutting some days to milliseconds. “Since 2016 the world has started to accelerate,” said Zotov, who A study published last March What could cause the change in the rotation of the earth? “This year it spins faster than 2021 and 2020.”


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This extended rotation doesn’t shorten every day—just every once in a while. But if it continues, the main way of measuring time on Earth – a universal, high-precision method known as atomic time – may have to change. A negative leap second may need to be added, where clocks will only skip one second. “Since we can’t change the hands of the clock associated with the Earth’s rotation, we adjust the scale of the atomic clock,” Zotov said.

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But not all scientists are in favor of negative leap seconds. In fact, meta engineers Oleg Oblukhov and Ahmad Biagoi recently wrote a blog post criticizing the concept. They said this could cause serious problems with the technology, such as data corruption. The concept has never been tested.

Polar ice bergs
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Some scientists theorize about Earth’s tides. Others believe that the constant melting and refreshing of the polar ice caps is speeding up and slowing down the Earth’s rotation.

“It’s all about the law of conservation of momentum that applies to our planet Earth. Each atom of the planet contributes to the angular momentum of the Earth based on the distance from the Earth’s axis of rotation,” Obleukhov and Bagoy told CBS. “So, once things rotate, Earth’s angular velocity can change.”

Professional figure skater Valentina Marchei.
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“This phenomenon can only be visualized by thinking about a spinning figure skater, who controls the angular velocity by controlling their arms and hands,” they say. “When they spread their arms, the angular velocity decreases, conserving the skater’s momentum. As the skater moves their arms back, the angular velocity increases. The same thing is happening here right now because of global warming. Ice cubes melt and lead angular velocity. for growth.”

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) skyscraper in the city of Geneva on a sunny summer day.
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In 2020, the planet experienced 28 of its shortest days in the past 50 years. The UN-affiliated International Telecommunication Union has begun adding leap seconds occasionally in June or December. The first leap second was added in 1972, and 26 have been added since then.

According to Ars Technica, during a leap second, the clock ticks from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 to 00:00:00. The intermediate “leap second” has caused technical problems in the past: a leap second added in 2012 caused crashes on Reddit, Gawker and Australian airline Qantas. In 2017, a leap second took down Cloudflare.

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