Science spin of the worst kind: National Geographic's 'When The Earth Stops Spinning'

Yet another reason why I no longer subscribe to National Geographic

Turned on my TV today, and this popped up, so of course I had to write about it. This is stupidity on steroids, packaged as psuedo-scientific claptrap entertainment for the gullible. Of course they had to work in the obligatory New York City flooding scene. But what’s worse is Nat Geo’s wholesale failure to even consider basic science before making this garbage.


From their website:

When The Earth Stops Spinning

If the Earth was to suddenly stop our seas and the atmosphere would change so drastically that it would no longer be able to support human life. Looking to a future where one side of the planet is dark and cold for six months at a time, and the other is bathed in deadly solar radiation, this episode explores how long human and animal life might survive in a cruel new, stationary world.

There’s the usual climate porn in this video, roasting temperatures, people fighting for resources, global sea level rise, etc…but what makes this NatGeo docu-wailer extra stupid is the simple math that tells us when the Earth will actually stop spinning. They apparently couldn’t be bothered to do that, since it blows the premise of the whole show right out of the water.

OK here’s the basic science and math relevant to the issue.

The Earth’s rotation around its own axis has been observed (thanks to atomic clocks) to be continuously slowing down. The main reason for this slowing is believed to be due to tidal friction. This is primarily caused by the moon’s gravitational actions on the oceans of the world.

Image from University of Montana Geoscience Dept.
According to modern calculation of ΔT, Earth’s rotation slows down at 1.7 milliseconds every 100 years. At this rate it will take ~ 1.9 trillion years to stop spinning.

The Earth will still be spinning in ~ 5 billion years when the Sun will turn into a red giant star and obliterate it. Prior to that, due to solar brightening, ~ 500 million to 2 billion years into the future, the Earth is likely to be uninhabitable anyway.

Evolution of the Sun’s luminosity, radius and effective temperature compared to the present day Sun. From the paper Ribas (2010)

Now compare that to “…this episode explores how long human and animal life might survive in a cruel new, stationary world”

Let me just say whoever produced this garbage science drama for National Geographic could use a good whack upside the head with a solar science book.  You can let them know if you feel as I do:

To contact us from the United States, please email or go to

You can watch the whole ridiculously bad thing here:

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December 2, 2012 1:42 pm

Ahhhhh – It’s worse than we thought !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Robert of Ottawa
December 2, 2012 1:45 pm

But Anthony, you must, surely, realize that the Earth is spinning out of control and something should be done about it.

carol smith
December 2, 2012 1:48 pm

the local second hand bookshop always has a heap of back-copies of National Geographic for sale and these appear to have a regular turnover. You can find the new issues in newsagent shops each month, such as WH Smith, who also sell them at airports and train stations. They are coffee table science and not the kind of thing you would check out if you really wanted to know about something. Do nice maps and you can download some nice images as wallpaper for your computer. The printed version of Wiki I suppose. I’m not surprised – when you read equally moronic stuff in the pages of New Scientist you can hardly be surprised that a more likely contender for the comic label should do such things.

David Banks
December 2, 2012 1:49 pm

Probably will stop spinning sooner due to CO2.

December 2, 2012 1:53 pm

Actually, if the world suddenly stopped spinning, I think we’d have much more trouble with various vehicles, buildings, ice sheets, oceans, and people that were going 1,000 MPH (at the equator). It’s not the car suddenly stopping when you hit the tree that causes problems, it’s you (and your internal organs) NOT suddenly stopping.
Perhaps they weren’t talking about a sudden stop?

December 2, 2012 1:54 pm

Did you miss the episode about when the Moon is suddenly gone?

December 2, 2012 1:55 pm

Email sent to National Geographic:
“Science fraud and spin of the worst kind:
National Geographic’s “When The Earth Stops Spinning”.
As seen on December 2, 2012 at WUWT by Anthony Watts
This is yet another reason why I no longer subscribe to National Geographic. Wake up to yourselves!”

December 2, 2012 2:00 pm

Stop the world! I want to get off!
They’re late to the party. The 1966 musical covered this – no science in it either ;o)

December 2, 2012 2:03 pm

Maybe all the panicing ones can start every day by facing east and running hard, thereby pushing the Earth and adding to the spin. Yeah that sounds like a sciency way to do it…

December 2, 2012 2:03 pm

Uh, doesn’t the Nat Geo show’s description say that it is assuming the Earth suddenly stops, rather than trying to imply the event will ever happen? It seems to be more of a fun thought experiment.

December 2, 2012 2:08 pm

Oh my god, is the sky falling? And my gas powered drink mixer caused this? Damn the evil oil industry and those stationary earth deniers. The models all show it is getting worse and it is going to happen even sooner than they predicted the day before yesterday…

December 2, 2012 2:08 pm

Yeah but science fiction is so much more fun than that boring real science.
Oh, by the way, Richdo LLC can sell anyone who’s interested some “Spin Credits”. Please respond with desired quantity.

December 2, 2012 2:10 pm

Nobody’s read H.G Wells, uh?

December 2, 2012 2:12 pm

If there’s even the slightest chance that the earth will stop spinning shouldn’t we take appropriate precautions and raise taxes to prevent it? Shouldn’t we? Or if there’s even the slightest chance we can convince people it might stop spinning so we can raise taxes, shouldn’t we? We can’t be too careful, you know.

December 2, 2012 2:14 pm

29 Nov: WSJ: Gautam Naik: Polar Ice Sheets Melt Faster
Shrinkage in Greenland, Antarctica Has Sent Ocean Levels Higher, Study Says
Higher temperatures over the past two decades have caused the polar ice sheets to melt at an accelerating rate, contributing to an almost half-inch rise in global sea levels, according to the most comprehensive study done so far…
The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, estimates that the melting of the ice sheets as a whole has raised global sea levels by 11.1 millimeters (0.43 inch) since 1992. That represents one-fifth of the total sea-level increase recorded in that period.
3 Dec: Sydney Morning Herald: Stark evidence of polar ice melt
Using satellite data, scientists reveal ‘definitive’ study that claims sea levels are rising, writes Naomi Seck
The new study, released November 30, in the US journal Science, combines data from 10 different satellites since 1992, carefully matching up time periods and geographical locations to make a more accurate and wider-ranging assessment…
A separate study on November 28 reported that sea levels are rising 60 per cent faster than the United Nations’s climate panel forecast in its recent assessment…

December 2, 2012 2:16 pm

Hey, remember the Earth stopped spinning in historical times already when Venus went by. Velikovsky said so. /sarc

Chuck L
December 2, 2012 2:17 pm

Well, CO2 is heavier than air so in addition to making the Earth hotter so it will be like Venus, it is the weight that of the extra CO2 that is causing the Earth’s rotation to slow down! 😛

December 2, 2012 2:18 pm

Long before then, the earth’s rotation will become synchronous with the lunar month, and only the solar tidal effects will remain. I recall reading long ago that after this point the moon will begin to move in toward the earth and eventually break up, forming rings.

December 2, 2012 2:27 pm

Well, CO2 is heavier than air so in addition to making the Earth hotter so it will be like Venus, it is the weight that of the extra CO2 that is causing the Earth’s rotation to slow down! 😛
No, No, No,, most of the CO2 comes from releasing carbon from the solid form underground. We are actually LOWERING the density of the surface+ atmosphere hence speeding the rotation up, counteracting the natural tendancy to slow down. This will gain us approximately 5% extra time.(guestimate)
Releasing CO2 from its underground storage has MANY MANY benefits !!!

December 2, 2012 2:28 pm

Once again, you pretend you know what you’re talking about. Are you a geospinologist with recent scientific publications, Mr. Watts regarding what makes the world go ’round? No? Then what business do you have questioning the science behind such an enlightening presentation? The time for debate is over. Unless we act now, unilaterally, the Earth will stop spinning and your children and your children’s children will never know days and nights again!
Did I do that right? Should I have called people deniers, too?

Roger Cohen
December 2, 2012 2:30 pm

Hey, I thought that conservation of angular momentum had a consensus that it was settled science.

John Ratcliffe
December 2, 2012 2:32 pm

So…………….Monty Python as more science content than National Geographic:


Robert of Ottawa
December 2, 2012 2:33 pm

As someone learning Portuguese, I thank upu Anthony for publishing the Portuguese subtitles 🙂
Shite is the same in any language.

john robertson
December 2, 2012 2:35 pm

Let me guess, readership is fallen, subscriptions at all time low. Oh no..s.
Is this a media attacking us or a media under attack?
So long National Geographic, now reincarnated as Notionally Gullible
Last one I bought was some years ago and it left me thinking; “I want my money back.”.

December 2, 2012 2:37 pm

I’m starting up a business to sell spinning credits. Remit all checks to me soon, or else!!

John Ratcliffe
December 2, 2012 2:39 pm

Mind you, Isn’t it the politicians that control spin? Or is it the lobbyists? Or the press officers? Or the senior bureaucrats? Or the tea trolley/post room girls?

December 2, 2012 2:39 pm

I think you missed the point, this isn’t an article saying that the earth is about to stop spinning, but its exploring what would be the result. We will have to assume the laws of inertia are suspended so that the crust doesn’t split and fold up allowing magma to run over a large part of the earth, that the atmosphere stops dead too avoiding those 1,000 miles per hour winds at the equator.
I recall reading a sci-fi book not so long ago about the colonization of such a world, where it was tidally locked to its sun. The inhabitable portion was in the twilight region.
Its an interesting thought experiment to determine if a human-compatible atmosphere could transport enough energy to the dark side to avoid the entire freezing out of all the available water (and nitrogen, oxygen etc.). Of course, CO2 would freeze out first, making breathing a little problematic, but mostly being a real issue for any plant life. I suppose you would need CO2 credits for activities which releades gaseous CO2 into the atmosphere.
The other problem involved in heat transfer from hot to [cold] side, is transporting enough of the energy to avoid boiling off the atmosphere on the hot side.
Personally, I suspect that taking an earth-like planet and tidally locking it to the sun would result in it becoming uninhabitable within a very few years. Small colonies might be able to exist if there were big enough deposits of frozen gases and water to mine on the cold side, but that would be about it.

Robert of Ottawa
December 2, 2012 2:40 pm

Depends upon reference frame. When one says “Earth stops spinning” do they mean:
a) that the Earth no longer spins in inertial space? i.e. as it moves around the Sun in its orbit, an Earth day becomes a year? or
b) the Earth becomes gravitationally locked to the Sun, such as, though it is still spinning in inertial space, it always has the same side towards the Sun, as the Moon does towards the Earth today.

December 2, 2012 2:41 pm

I smell a government grant !

December 2, 2012 2:41 pm

If everyone on Earth starts running from east to west, really fast, we could make up for the decrease in rotation. We would be “saving the planet”.
(It must be April 1 somewhere in the Universe….)

December 2, 2012 2:44 pm

Prof Steffen said that this period of climate change caused by humans, known as the ‘anthropocene era’, could ultimately cause the whole system of ice ages followed by warm periods, that has allowed life on Earth to flourish, to be over.
Possibly the most ‘un-scientific’ statement. Ever.

D Böehm
December 2, 2012 2:46 pm

That reminds me of World Jump Day.

Luther Wu
December 2, 2012 2:48 pm

There I was, needin’ some scary movies and bored with zombies on Netflix…
Nat Geo to the rescue!

Doug Huffman
December 2, 2012 2:50 pm

What do you think powered the Death Star’s planet annihilation weapon but the planet’s angular momentum? I don’t know which is worse, NG for not knowing better or SA for writing trash anyway.

December 2, 2012 2:50 pm

How hot would it get on the side facing the Sun?
1,000 Watt/m2 coming in forever. It would just get hotter and hotter and hotter until some equilibrium level is reached. Technically, I think it would exceed Venus’ temperatures within a year.

December 2, 2012 2:50 pm

Maybe we could paint the west side of the mountains silver to reflect light and the est side black for absorption to counter the slowing.

December 2, 2012 2:51 pm

Yeah agree. I turned on National Geographic in Asia and got a stream of shows on ghosts and UFOS. The marketing of these shows states “Its not a question of whether ghosts/UFOs are real, but what we can do about it” kind of stuff. No skepticism, no fact checking. Scenes of little goblin aliens as if they are real. I didnt even bother to watch the shows, which may have some kind of fact checking in there, because the way it is marketed itself was wrong. The marketing style alone is only a step or two outside of fully selling out to mysticism and superstition. Im quite sure Carl Sagan would be disgusted (see his book “the demon haunted world”-about the dangers of superstitious mysticism and unregulated piffle).
Nat Geo used to be about science, but obviously the management has decided that its better to make more money focusing on marketing and entertainment-but by doing this one has to betray the science. Appeal to the masses of uneducated, don’t worry about the science. Its a disgrace.
On their website, it states “caring for the planet and every living thing in it, since 1886”. Actually this is not its mission at all. Its about learning about the planet, not caring for ‘every living thing’. Do we care about the malaria virus? Or deadly strains of bacteria? Do we stop eating meat because we care about the cows? No, but we treat the cows humanely. They have imposed a psuedo-religious mentality on the site similar to the marketing of the media style of “scientists report UFO” kind of marketing, but dont worry about the facts.
Maybe someone can set up a Nat Geo breakaway group, with its charter to remain true to science and not sell out to marketing and entertainment.

December 2, 2012 2:51 pm

SC-SlyWolf says (December 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm):
“Did you miss the episode about when the Moon is suddenly gone?”
Episode? That was an entire series: Space:1999. Speaking of bad science (fiction).

December 2, 2012 2:54 pm

doha spin is everywhere in the MSM, no matter how insane:
3 Dec: ABC: Sarah Clarke: Temps set to soar as emissions grow: report
The latest snapshot from climate scientists has found the planet is on track for a 4 to 6 degree Celsius temperature rise by the turn of the century…
The Global Carbon Project, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, has calculated that emissions rose by 3 per cent last year, and 2.6 per cent this year, despite the weak global economy.
Pep Canadell from the CSIRO was one of the lead authors of the report, and says the growth in emissions is shocking…
The authors say while it was technically still possible to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, emissions growth would have to rapidly come to a halt and then fall quickly…
It would require a rapid shift to greener energy and even net negative emissions in the future, where more CO2 is taken out of the air than added.

John West
December 2, 2012 2:55 pm

It’s all the windmills that stop the Earth from spinning on 03/31/2037.

December 2, 2012 3:03 pm

Heh, I’m sorry, but these climate scare claims are wimpy. In my own area of research I’ve had to deal with babies licking floors for almost 3 trillion years and college students being poisoned from sitting on contaminated campus benches for roughly 3 SEXTILLION years.
AGW Climate science by comparison is rock solid science wrapped in parsecs of nanotubing!
The trick is to do exactly what Anthony did here: hit them at their most ridiculous lies. If they want to claim global warming is slowing the planet, fine. Just point out that non-anthropogenic solar warming will have burned the earth to a crisp 200 times over before it happens. You have to make the ridiculous numbers clearly LOOK ridiculous to the layman — even though they’re being spouted by “all the cognizant authorities in the world.” Without that push from people like the folks here, people just accept what they keep hearing repeated on the TV.
The trick also lies in getting that information out to the people whose main source of input is the televised (and, as Anthony points out, translated over to mainstream popular print as well — the three-trillion-year floor-licking-baby claim is based on serious research published with a straight face by the New York Times) misinformation that they’re hit with every day. You need to find a way to counter the ads showing the cute little girl playing on the railroad tracks with the train accelerating towards her at warp speeds.
Combine those tricks and you’ll have a shot at fighting on something at least approaching an equal footing. The more technical arguments about percentages of ice melt and ocean rises of 2 cm instead of 15 cm and CO2 levels of .3% or 1.6% may be important if/when you get a voice at scientific conferences or in published letters/responses to climate journals, but I strongly believe that, to have an impact, you need to get the message out to the people who are getting clobbered by the sensationalism of the other side every day. And to do that, you have to hit with sensationalism, but more HONEST sensationalism of your own. And since you don’t have an equal microphone to start off with you need to get the microphone shoved in your faces through the promise of providing a colorful fight: and that’s where calling their most extreme lies to the floor over and over again comes in!

December 2, 2012 3:10 pm

NG making an ar$e of themselves and their readers yet again?
Oh FFS!!

December 2, 2012 3:12 pm

P.S. This discussion of National Geographic sensationalism has reminded me of a discussion I overheard my parents having back when I was about 13 years old. I had collected a good number of National Geographics at that point from secondhand stores because of all the amazing pictures of insects they had. My parents however were quietly discussing whether I should be allowed to bring magazines into the house that had all these pictures of African Tribeswomen with bare breasts! Heh, I was a bit slow, even for a 13 year old Catholic school boy: I don’t think I’d even NOTICED the breasts by that point: bugs were SOOOOO much more fun!

Robert of Ottawa
December 2, 2012 3:12 pm

“Doha Spin” … Gangnam Dance

Ian W
December 2, 2012 3:12 pm

omnologos says:
December 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm
Nobody’s read H.G Wells, uh?

Exactly my thoughts….
H.G.Wells – The man who could work miracles (1936)

December 2, 2012 3:15 pm

Progressive scientists – they cannot serve two masters, it seems. Either they will hate the one, and love the other, or they will despise the one and be loyal to the other.

December 2, 2012 3:17 pm

I only ever looked at NatGeo for the pictures. i watched this ‘documentary’ a few months back as i was feeling a little sad and needed cheering up.

Go Home
December 2, 2012 3:22 pm

I wished they would do a show on how cruel the world would be to live in if there all of a sudden was no CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans.

December 2, 2012 3:27 pm

“Special Offer” National Geographic® – One Year Subscription for Only £15.
Order Now from the Official Site!
Kids Magazine?
Google it.
yes it’s true.

December 2, 2012 3:27 pm

I have told my wife to stop paying the nat geo bill for some time now, this is one of the reasons!

December 2, 2012 3:46 pm

“Let me just say whoever produced this garbage science drama for National Geographic could use a good whack upside the head with a solar science book.”
And they need an even harder whack with a grammar book.
When they write “If the Earth was to suddenly stop… ” instead of “If the Earth were to suddenly stop…” they have already given sufficient reason for you to stop subscribing.

Mike Bromley the Kurd
December 2, 2012 3:54 pm

Everything happens to New York, n’est ce pas?

David Spurgeon
December 2, 2012 3:58 pm

In fairness it DOES say it will never happen?

Steve from Rockwood
December 2, 2012 4:08 pm

Q. When will the Earth stop spinning?
A. When you let go of that tequila bottle.
Ah, let it spin then…

johnathan birks
December 2, 2012 4:15 pm

What’s this? The No Spin Zone? Who let O’Reilly into the NatGeo studios?
But seriously, by the time this is even remotely possible (many millions of years, as the doc admits) our own race will have either ceased to exist (by evolution or self-destruction) or left the planet entirely. I also will venture a guess that we’ll not be driving Toyota 4Runners, or whatever the guy drove from Denver to Nebraska.

December 2, 2012 4:15 pm

How can the Earth stop rotating when anyone with a brain knows it is flat? (and warming due to CO2!)

December 2, 2012 4:28 pm

science spin of the year? my #1:
1 Feb: Virgin: Antarctica log 3 – the world will never have another ice age
by Richard Branson
The good news is we now know how to heat up the world. We just release an excess of carbon into it. So any time we’re heading to an ice age again that is what we can do to stop it.
The bad news is that we’re are in danger of releasing so much carbon that we could fry our beautiful earth and our great-grandchildren too.
If we move quickly and get on top of this issue we could regulate the earth’s temperature so that we need never go back into another ice age. And have the best of all worlds.
Work to do!–the-world-will-never-have-another-ice-age

December 2, 2012 4:29 pm

I do know there are a lot of idiots in the world, I didn’t realize NG was hiring them all.

Frank K.
December 2, 2012 4:40 pm

michaeljmcfadden says:
December 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm
” Heh, I was a bit slow, even for a 13 year old Catholic school boy: I don’t think I’d even NOTICED the breasts by that point: bugs were SOOOOO much more fun!”
Well, this latest science-junk by National Geographic just goes to show that, after all these years, the editors are still just a bunch of boobs…(sorry – couldn’t resist :).

December 2, 2012 4:40 pm

Just remove the paycheck, as in subscriptions etc. Interesting is that the viewership of mainstream media is so lacking yet they perpetuate their demise. Odd, other than the sensationalism is the sell factor.

December 2, 2012 4:43 pm


If the Earth was to suddenly stop [spinning]

I’d be far too busy flying off into space at 1000 mph to really care about anything else, to be honest.

Grandpa Boris
December 2, 2012 4:48 pm

Anthony, I am puzzled by your incredibly churlish, humorless, unimaginative reaction to this show! Did the NatGeo need to splatter “SCIENCE FICTION” or “SPECULATIVE FANTASY” banners all over that show to avoid knee-jerk reactions? They clearly state that this is purely a speculation, a thought experiment. It isn’t any more offensive than a science fiction novel like Robert Charles Wilson’s “Spin” or the classic “The Day of the Triffids”? For that matter, if instead of the after-effects of the Earth stopping its spin they made a program about the equally impossible “zombie apocalypse”, would you have the same vehement reaction?
REPLY: It’s not presented as science fiction. It is presented on a channel that carries factual documentaries, with no disclaimer as being science fiction. As science fiction goes, it isn’t even good science fiction, because it isn’t remotely plausible. . Tough noogies if my opinion upsets you. At least I have the integrity to put my name to it, unlike your opinion. – Anthony

Michael D Smith
December 2, 2012 4:56 pm

Run for your life Alfred E. Newman. Your magazine doesn’t stand a chance.

December 2, 2012 4:57 pm

Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.

Chuck L
December 2, 2012 5:00 pm

For those SciFi fans among us, the late, great, Roger Zelazny’s excellent “Jack of Shadows” has an interesting take on what would happen if the Earth stopped rotating.

Gail Combs
December 2, 2012 5:03 pm

Mike Bromley the Kurd says:
December 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm
Everything happens to New York [City], n’est ce pas?
That is the due to the prayers of the rest of the state. We really wish New Jersey would annex it.

December 2, 2012 5:05 pm

Grandpa Boris says:
December 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm
Anthony, I am puzzled by your incredibly churlish, humorless, unimaginative reaction to this show! Did the NatGeo need to splatter “SCIENCE FICTION” or “SPECULATIVE FANTASY” banners all over that show to avoid knee-jerk reactions?
Uh, Gramps, ever hear of Al Gore’s documentary?

December 2, 2012 5:06 pm

Look over the August 2010 National Geographic article the “Bahamas Blue Holes”. Note the cyclical, 125,000 year change in ocean level. Note the previous high levels. Note the average global temperature that would be associated with these levels. Draw your own conclusions. I noted that there were periods with the ocean levels as much as ten feet above present in the last million years. Now look through the rest of the magazine. You will find that there are articles describing how it has never been this warm before. If that is true, then how did the oceans get so much deeper so many times before? If the ocean has been deeper many times before, who are we to try and stop what is and has been a natural process for many millions of years? My conclusion is that National Geographic’s is a propaganda tool with pretty pictures to lure you into reading it.

December 2, 2012 5:08 pm

Nobody makes tax policy for zombies, Gramps.

Steve B
December 2, 2012 5:09 pm

Grandpa Boris says:
December 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

December 2, 2012 5:13 pm

Most of us expect a certain amount of professional science and discovery from NatGeo. But they and others in the mass media stream have been taken over by children who hire children; no other explanation???.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
December 2, 2012 5:33 pm

This is expected to happen in the future, after the Dangler, the transportation cable system that hangs from the Moon down to just above the thermosphere, accidentally gets hung up on the Space Elevator.

Jean Parisot
December 2, 2012 5:38 pm

If I set up up a website downplaying this threat, ignoring the catastrophic consequences, and arguing against prudent precautions; will big oil fund me?

December 2, 2012 5:42 pm

If National Geographic wants to explore unlikely scenarios, why not imagine everyone worked hard for a living.
John Lennon singing:
“Imagine there’s no welfare…”
Nah. Too hard to imagine that. Easier to imagine the world stops spinning…

Geof Burbidge
December 2, 2012 5:48 pm

If I were a good Warmist PR specialist I’d be squirming while watching When the Earth Stops Spinning. Nat Geo is nudging the pendulum of Pop Alarmism towards the absurd, which can’t help the arc of Anthropogenic Global Warming one bit.

December 2, 2012 5:54 pm

If the Earth stopped spinning… What a lovely GedankenZeit that would be.
Just imagine how tricky that might become.
Not quite as tricky as if the worlds media stopped the gravy-train that CAGW has become but far more believable.
Everyone knows that CO2 is a dense and despotic gas thanks to the illuminations of legions of catastrophists.
.Everyone accepts that concentrations of the demon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million is GUARANTEED to lead to multiple and dastardly tipping-points and the irreversible reduction of Gaia’s angular momentum to zero should come as no surprise.
Kiddies heads exploding is but another 10-10 moment, good buddies.
Welcome to the dizzy, new-world of scientific-discovery as advertised pro-bono (let’s neglect the odd trillion $ or so) by scientifically switched-on and totally dispassionate commentators.
Gawd bless the forces of reason that blast away the dark-clouds of logic, scepticism and numeracy that pervade the growing legions of questioning apostates of the one and only true religion.
(/Scientists against Real Climate- sarc)

December 2, 2012 6:05 pm

If the earth stopped spinning in our lifetimes, the rotational momentum would tear the earth’s crust apart, and we’d all be dead.

john robertson
December 2, 2012 6:09 pm

@RoyFOMR, the sudden cessation of CAGW gravy-train may be coming, sooner than we think, the desperation and fear is obvious now, and the politicians are deserting.
But a documentary of it, or SF facsimile there of would be a best seller.

December 2, 2012 6:16 pm

Simple fix actually. Westbound speed limits for cars, trucks, trains should be 5 MPH more than eastbound speed limits. North and Southbound can be equal. Roads on a diagonal (NW, NE, etc.) can be adjusted using the sine / cosine ratio of the prevailing compass heading.
The differential momentum transfer from vehicle to Earth times millions of vehicles will have things up to speed again in no time. Nothing you can’t fix with fossil fuels.
(awaiting my shill check from the evil oil companies)
Cheers, Kevin..

December 2, 2012 6:37 pm

Oh, but the science fiction movies on National Geographic are so well written compared to the ones on SyFy! And they obviously have higher production values. Why are you all so down on them?

Frank Kotler
December 2, 2012 6:37 pm

If the current trend continues, the Southern Hemisphere will be completely covered in ice, and the Northern Hemisphere will be completely ice free. This will (I’m sure) cause the earth to capsize! Might cause it to stop spinning, too. Better institute global governance immediately, just to be on the safe side!
(do we have a tag for “I hope it’s sarcasm, but it might not be?”)

December 2, 2012 6:45 pm

National Geographic is wrong because the end of the world is actually going to happen this month … the Mayan doomsday of 21 December 2012. I’ve already booked my ride to the space station!

David Ball
December 2, 2012 6:57 pm

Imagine if Nat Geo stopped spinning, ……

December 2, 2012 7:10 pm

National Geographic does not have a lot of credibility anymore, its TV programs are suspect, but I kind of enjoy Air Crash Investigation.
Ah yeah, old versions of the Mag are good at doctors and dentist waiting rooms, especially the ones printed before they went gaga on AGW. But good photography is not sufficient.

December 2, 2012 7:22 pm

I don’t think the program ever made the claim that the Earth is ever actually going to stop spinning. I think it’s just a thought experiment of “what would it be like if…” Just like that thing about what would happen if the entire human race disappeared suddenly.

Graeme from Downunder
December 2, 2012 7:33 pm

If the world stop spinning our aussie politicians have enough spare spin to set things in motion again.

richard verney
December 2, 2012 8:06 pm

I have not read the full article so I may have missed something, or not understood what they were saying, but if the Earth stopped spinning (presumably this is a reference to the spin on the axis), why would one be “Looking to a future where one side of the planet is dark and cold for six months at a time, and the other is bathed in deadly solar radiation…”? Surely if the planet is not spinning one side would be forever in darkness, and the other side forever bathed in sunlight (until the planet was consumed by an expanding sun, or until the sun burnt out).
If the Earth stopped spinning, an Earth day would not be 6 months, it would in effect last for ever (assuming a day is the time required for an object to complete one rotation about its axis).
Either they or I are making a school boy error (I have an excuse,it is just after 5am so a late nighter!)

Reply to  richard verney
December 2, 2012 8:47 pm

Richard, if it stopped spinning around its axis *AND* around the sun, then things would be as you say. However, if it just stopped spinning on its axis then yes, you’d get the six month effect.
Re the “deadly solar radiation”: just remember… there is “no safe level of exposure” to that nastiness! Sunscreen and awnings provide only partial protection! Serviced patio dining must be banned! Regardless of what “spin” might be put upon it!

Dave Dodd aka 4thTech
December 2, 2012 8:35 pm

Is methane hallucinogenic? Sounds like NG has their heads where the Sun don’t shine!

December 2, 2012 9:01 pm

Rotation Tax, that’s what we need.

Policy Guy
December 2, 2012 10:05 pm

John Ratcliff,
What a great clip. Thanks so much, I’m moving it around. Song and dance to explain the galaxy and the universe. Wow.

December 2, 2012 10:09 pm

On the plus side, theres a real, genuine, bonafide, hockey stick!

Goode 'nuff
December 2, 2012 10:26 pm

If the Earth, “suddenly stopped spinning” as it refers, I do not see how the friction created underneath our crust wouldn’t melt much of the surface and boil off most of the H2O. Sounds like 2012 doomsday ‘woo woo’ rubbish so… wasn’t interested and won’t waste time.

December 2, 2012 11:23 pm

Philip Peake says:
I think you missed the point, this isn’t an article saying that the earth is about to stop spinning, but its exploring what would be the result. We will have to assume the laws of inertia are suspended so that the crust doesn’t split and fold up allowing magma to run over a large part of the earth, that the atmosphere stops dead too avoiding those 1,000 miles per hour winds at the equator.
In which place wouldn’t Sy-fi be a more appropriate place to broadcast it. It’s hardly a “documentry” if you have to suspend the laws of physics for the basic premise.

December 2, 2012 11:51 pm

Earth will be uninhabitable in about 200 million years due to CO2 depletion unless we continue releasing CO2 from marble, limestone, and carbon fuels. We are actually pretty close to the point where many plants begin to have a difficult time reproducing. Conifers have greatly reduced seed production compared to what a 2x increase in CO2 produces. I think it was a 2x increase in CO2 provides a 9x increase in viable seed production. Broadleaved trees do better because they create their own CO2 supply from decaying leaf matter. But in the end there will be no trees and the grasses will get thinner until there are no plants to support animal life as more and more carbon is scrubbed from the atmosphere into insoluble carbonates and plate tectonics slows down and volcanism can no longer create enough CO2 to keep up with the scrubbing rate.
We’ll be gone long before the sun gets too hot.

December 2, 2012 11:59 pm

Here’s an idea. If we could hook up a dollar launcher that would propel compressed $1 bill pellets with sufficient force, we could keep the Earth spinning forever.

December 3, 2012 12:05 am

Hilarious that you think Geography is a science- Geo- Earth, Graph- Draw. Its art. So National Geography is doing fantasy art.

D Böehm
December 3, 2012 12:19 am

Don’t be silly. We would need at least a $100 million launcher. Probably a $1 trillion launcher, truth be told. Remember, we’re talking government numbers here. Let’s be realistic.

December 3, 2012 12:24 am

Don’t have the time or inclination to watch the entire thing – is it just a “what if”? or are they actually suggesting that it’s a real possibility? Even if it’s a just what-if, it seems pretty silly – I imagine that most anyone who’s graduated middle school has at least a vague notion of what would happen if the planet stopped spinning.
Currently, the rotatioinal kinetic energy of our lumpy little spheroid is about 2.138(E)28 joules, or roughly 2.138(E)25, or ten-trillion-trillion, BTUs. That energy would have to be dissipated somehow, on a 5 year time table, and the only possible mechansim I can think of is heat. Let’s see, that comes to 4.2 trillion-trillion (4.2(E)24) BTUs per year, more than 8 million times the yearly energy consumption of the entire planet, or almost 4,000 years worth of solar energy (at about 5.4 trillion-trillion joules/year). So – that would be equivalent to an 800% increase in solar radiation for 5 years? Methinks it would get a little toasty, maybe enough to boil the oceans into space; maybe even enough to slag the entire surface several meters deep. At any rate, it’s a sure bet that, whatever the conditions after the world finally stopped spinning, we would be way past caring.
If they are suggesting it’s a real possibility, are they also suggesting that destructive homo- industrius is somehow to blame? That would be stupidity on stilts.

December 3, 2012 12:31 am

The classic TV sci-fi 1999 was based on the premise that the Moon decided to leave Earth orbit and head off into space at many times the speed of light to visit other regions of the universe.
Nobody said that was far fetched!

Geoff Sherrington
December 3, 2012 1:00 am

The September 2004 Nat Geo was part devoted to global warming. Since then, new instruments, new observations have revealed some erros and some wrong projections. The IPCC glaciers melted by year 2035 is in there. I’ve emailed the Editor suggesting that correct scientific procedure is to correct errors once established, suggesting a decade later Sept 2014 edition again on (corrected) global warming.
Anthony, if you have enthisiasm for this, do you have a collection point for contributions from top people so that a compendium of corrections coud be sent to Nat Geo by (say) March 2014?
I have a rough draft that readers can see at

December 3, 2012 1:37 am

But I thought global warming was supposed to slow down Earth’s spin. Or was that speed it up. ;-(
I doubt whether human beings will be around in 5 million years let alone 500 million years. The main problem being the eventual peaking of world population (2100 at 10.1 million – UN), aging, then decline. Fertility rates in many parts of the world are falling as standards of living improve. Mexico and Brazil are good examples.

December 3, 2012 2:07 am

Philip Peake says:
December 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm
I think you missed the point, this isn’t an article saying that the earth is about to stop spinning, but its exploring what would be the result……..

Cool, but what’s the point. Why don’t they make a show asking what if the Moon began accelerating away? What if the Sun suddenly stopped shining? Sheesh!

December 3, 2012 2:20 am

Intergovernmental Panel on Centripetal Calamity…
see easy peeaasy

Chuck Nolan
December 3, 2012 2:35 am

psion (@psion) says:
December 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm
Once again, you pretend you know what you’re talking about. Are you a geospinologist with recent scientific publications, Mr. Watts regarding what makes the world go ’round? No? Then what business do you have questioning the science behind such an enlightening presentation? The time for debate is over. Unless we act now, unilaterally, the Earth will stop spinning and your children and your children’s children will never know days and nights again!
Did I do that right? Should I have called people deniers, too
You forgot to ask for more money for more research.

December 3, 2012 2:46 am

This might actually be possible in our time. According to that channel, aliens hav visited the Earth to build the pyramids, so i guess it would be a walk in the park to stop the rotation if they want to. Considering that this is very likely because we burn to much oil according to alien climate experts, we shuold prepare ourselves with new taxes.

Chuck Nolan
December 3, 2012 3:03 am

I don’t remember reading anything in NG that I didn’t believe was real when I was a kid,
i thought everything between those pages was true, including the short, naked Africans.
Alas, my childhood is gone. Another icon swept away by CAGW.

Milovic Nikola
December 3, 2012 4:15 am

Usually happens to those who least understand the true cause of some occurrence, throw stupid idea, and claims to have caused as much sensation and earned it as much!
NEED TO KNOW TRUE cause of some phenomenon, and then draw conclusions.
Science still has not figured out the real causes of the earth’s rotation on its axis, and found hundreds of miracles to draw conclusions about it.
Stupidity and the Moon slows the earth’s spin, as they are moving together around a common center barimetra-rotation, which is located around 1500 km. below the surface.
The country has its own eccentric spin for rotation around the sun, and the energy of the spin is accumulated in the perihelion and the mass of the Earth is given by the radial kinetic energy, radial movement of the same congregation.
Let those who love science prostuditaju this well, and they will see that this is true, and I can confirm and prove to you that I have the opportunity to publish it.
Here’s the formula for baričentar:
r= (t / T). ae.1 / (1-e ^ 2) ^ 1/2.cosf (o-pi)
r-distance from the center of the country Baricentro
t-time spin
T-Time Revolution
a-major axis of the earth
e-eccentricity orbits
f-angle between the directions: sun-perihelion and position of the sun and the earth
p = 3.1415 …
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Pull My Finger
December 3, 2012 5:12 am

Eh, it’s all in good fun. Didn’t see the episode but coming at it from this angle will get more people to watch than an episode on why earth’s rotation was critical to the formation of life. The Universe epidsoe on the Day the Moon was Gone was actually quite fascinating. You take the big old moon for granted, but most likely without it we wouldn’t be here. As long as they didn’t blame the earth’s rotation stopping on CO2.

Pull My Finger
December 3, 2012 5:14 am

Unfortunately I think you are very, very incorrect in that assumption.
“I imagine that most anyone who’s graduated middle school has at least a vague notion of what would happen if the planet stopped spinning.”

December 3, 2012 6:01 am

Some of their disaster scenarios are vaguely interesting, but this one I didn’t even glance at ’cause it’s physically impossible. Just like the moon “disappearing” instantly.

Vince Causey
December 3, 2012 6:26 am

I remember seeing this doc about a year ago – way before hurricane Sandy, so they must have updated it. I viewed it as a sci-fi but there were some interesting observations, such as when they said the atmospheric pressure would become too low to support life at the equator. I’m not sure how they worked that out – seems a bit bizarre.
Looking back, it was sort of interesting in a “I like to get scared” way, but not very relevant to todays problems. I believe they did something similar about the sun getting hotter, or maybe that was another channel.

Bruce Cobb
December 3, 2012 6:28 am

Well, in the 1951 sci-fi film “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, an alien being neutralizes electric power worldwide to teach them a lesson. Oh wait, that’s essentially what the Warmists want to do. Never mind.

Leo Morgan
December 3, 2012 6:35 am

Anthony, for all that i admire and respect you, I have to say that on this occasion you’ve missed the point.
The National Geographic show is not about the current slowing of the Earth’s rotation that you write about above. Yes, we know that’s happening. But the show is a thought experiment, a counterfactual, a hypothetical.
This is a perfectly valid way to consider actual physics. For example, we do it ourselves when we ask “How would the world be different if Climate models were valid?” The measured temperatures would be much higher, the stratospheric ‘hot spot’ would be found, both poles would be melting at the predicted rates, the paleontological proxies of the world’s temperature would be different, etc.
Surely you see that?
They’re putting their hypothetical in the indicative mood rather than the subjunctive is poor science, but great entertainment. Who could confuse it and think they mean it literally? Apparently you could, but surely not after a bit of reflection. Their meaning is far more obvious than a whore’s wink. For us to be insanely literal about this would be literally insane.
I’m no advocate of National Geographic. They had a noble tradition of informing us about the world. They’ve betrayed that tradition by abandoning integrity for advocacy. But this show is not that.
Those of us who e-mail them about this demonstrate that we sceptics are unable to recognise a simple hypothetical. It makes us look dumb. Let’s not.

Bruce Cobb
December 3, 2012 7:05 am

They could do one where the earth has fallen out of its orbit, and is spiralling ever closer to the sun, with people dropping dead from heat exhaustion, and filled with panic about what is happening, and what will inevitably happen – the earth burning up. Then, in a twist, that could turn out to actually be just a nightmare, with the reality being that the earth is actually moving further away, and people are freezing to death. Ok, that was actually a Twilight Zone episode called “The Midnight Sun”, but it has some striking similarities to today, with the Warmists’ nightmare scenario being what they imagine as real, when in fact we are very likely looking at significant cooling in the short-term, and the inevitable return to Ice Age conditions within a few centuries, possibly sooner.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 3, 2012 5:55 pm

Bruce, one of my favorite episodes! 🙂 The old Twilight Zone was truly classic: the Outer Limits etc never even came close to it. And Jeff, yes, it’s clear to even the most unsophisticated among us that Apollo 11 is indeed the cause of the problem. Perhaps compounded by the extra frictional drag caused by excess secondhand smoke…. ::ducking::

Lester Via
December 3, 2012 7:11 am

One of the “green” methods of generating electricity is to make use of the tidal motion in areas like the Bay of Fundy that have very high tides. The energy for generating this electrical power is taken directly from the angular momentum of the earth thus slowing it down. I
They’re going to kill us all to avoid burning fossil fuels!!! /sarc
You may be able to have fun with this until some alarmist bothers to calculate the actual effect.

December 3, 2012 7:18 am

You guys realize that all of the observe slowing of the Earth’s rotation has occurred since Apollo 11. Since lunar gravity causes the rotation of the Earth to slow, it’s clear that the Apollo missions had something to do with this
REPLY: I think you forgot the /sarc tag – Anthony

December 3, 2012 8:10 am

Did they mention the thousand-mile-an-hour whiplash effect at the equator? Dropping off, of course, as the cosine of the latitude as you go towards the poles…

December 3, 2012 8:17 am

The ‘tidal friction’ calculations usually overlook the fact that, as the moon slows the earth’s rotation the moon itself also moves further away from the earth, weakening the effect of tidal friction. The end point is reached when the moon and earth become tidally ‘locked’ so that the earth always keeps one face towards the moon. That is, the moon’s orbit becomes geostationary due to the earth’s slowed rotations.
I once did a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on the conservation of Total Angular Momentum (earth rotation, moon rotation, and earth-moon system rotation). The outcome was that the tidal friction will end when the solar day and the month are both about 45 day’s long, several billion years from now.
At that point the only thing that could alter the spinning of the earth-moon system is another (a third) body.

Reply to  tadchem
December 3, 2012 8:21 am

Ultimately, there is a third body involved already, the Sun.

Milovic Nikola
December 3, 2012 8:30 am

Who where the “orders”, Earth Moon or vice versa, how to behave.? Most of the participants in the discussion did not take into account the relevant facts that the Earth is “commanded” the moon how to behave. There is no democracy as between us, and that stupid-illogical theories adopted to “beautiful relationship”.
Anyone who knows the laws of celestial mechanics that govern it, and this question the claim that the earth will be stopped in its rotation due to the influence of the moon, causing repugnance to him and confirm that all those who claim it, the absolute vorthles in science in general .
Who can claim that CO2 has a greater impact on the state of the Earth than the relations planet. This really has nothing to do or ideas about the forces that rule and govern the heavenly bodies.
It disappeared without a rationale for further discussion

December 3, 2012 9:52 am

JeffDG: Agreed, and it’s effect will also be frictional, reducing the total energy of the earth-moon system, but not the angular momentum of the earth-moon-sun system … until it expands sufficiently to add drag from the solar wind.

Jim G
December 3, 2012 10:17 am

We are, unfortunately, continuing to fight tabloid entertainment propaganda such as this with, what is to the great masses of unwashed, science that they do not understand. Since we will never convince the science oriented ( I will not call them scientists) crowd who are making money off of the AGW scare, we need to convince the proletariat, who are, again, unfortunately, allowed to vote that they are paying for this nonsense and receiving nothing in return. Perhaps some movies, books or what have you, like the very humorous “Idiocracy”. It was very entertaining and funny but sadly accurate in terms of our present day path into the future.
All of the accurate science in the world will not convince those on the take since most of those folks don’t know or don’t care about their poor science. The rest of the world needs truthful but entertaining propaganda to fight against the continous bombardment from the leftist media on the issue of global warming. Otherwise we will need to wait until people are freezing in the dark.

Gerald Kelleher
December 3, 2012 12:34 pm

Reading the comments here is repulsive.
Aside from daily rotation,the planet turns once to the central Sun where the polar coordinates act like a lighthouse beacon for the orbital behavior of the Earth and are currently under 3 weeks from being carried around to their maximum distance to the circle of illumination
There is not a single article,paper or comment on the ecliptic axis around which those polar coordinates are carried around in a circle to the central Sun,an ecliptic axis which is crucial for explaining the seasons and defining planetary climate and runs along a line that follows the circle of illumination.
Far from this modern insanity is astronomy proper where causes and effects still have to be worked out and modifications made to suit contemporary imaging.It requires a less personal animosity as neither side in this mess have a good handle of planetary dynamics,how to combine them or separate them into their individual components and signatures.

December 3, 2012 12:45 pm

Presumably the tidal drag is roughly proportional to the earth’s rate of rotation, so that as it slows down, the drag will reduce, with the result that the rotation slows exponentially rather than linearly. 1.7 milliseconds per century would therefore mean that in 1.9 trillion years, the earth will have only slowed to exp(-1) = 37% of its current rate. In another 1.9 trillion years, it will have slowed by another factor of 37% etc.
But Tadchem’s considerations above at 12/3, 8:17 AM would appear to accelerate the slowing considerably. I defer to him on these considerations.
Fortunately, I’ve already let my subscription to NG lapse years ago.

Sally Paradise
December 3, 2012 1:18 pm

Everybody live backwards.

Tom Gray
December 3, 2012 1:46 pm

We shouldn’t get excited about this. The program is jsut a way of explaining the effects of the Earth’s rotation by showing a fantasy scenario in which it stopped. it is jsut a way to explain the science and nothing else – just a thought experiment to teach some concepts. I saw a whole series on the topic and it was quite good.

December 3, 2012 1:47 pm

I think people are just abusing the term “documentary” to death.
This is like the “documentary-style” show from a while back that posited that the US military had co-opted governments around the world in some kind of plot to kill mermaids.
The funny thing is it never *said* it was fiction. I mean, it should be obvious, but you know someone, somewhere believed it.

December 3, 2012 2:17 pm

I’m not sure what the link is, but our warmist at large Dick Smith founded Australian Geographic, akin to National Geopgraphic. After the Dick returned from a global helicopter flight recently, he reported that it was enough to persuade him that man was changing the climate. Nutty. I stopped buying the stupid man’s rag from that point.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 3, 2012 3:13 pm

If the world suddenly stopped spinning, wouldn’t we all gain weight?

December 3, 2012 4:48 pm

The funniest thing about this science fiction fantasy is NG totally ignores the centre of the Earth- the bulge of Earth is due its rotation. The liquid of the mantle will move towards a spherical arrangement and we will afflicted by the worst earthquakes ever. 9 and 10 magnitudes earthquakes will 99% of humans and most of the rest of life.

Gerald Kelleher
December 3, 2012 8:17 pm

The 26 mile spherical deviation of the planet may be due to differential rotation,a common feature of all rotating celestial objects with exposed viscous compositions with the Earth’s fair thin and fractured crust disguising this common feature.
Venus has very little rotation,no spherical deviation and no geological activity beyond volcanic while the Earth has a 26 mile deviation,a very active surface crust due to an uneven rotational gradient between equatorial and polar latitudes.All it needs are researchers who can work with a maximum equatorial speed of 1037.5 miles per hour in order to move the topic forward where planetary shape,evolutionary geology and possibly geomagnetism combine using a common differential rotation mechanism that is already observed on other planets.
Of course,making planetary comparisons between Venus and Earth requires only good interpretative skills leaving modeling a distant 3rd factor and then only to make it understandable to a wider audience – likewise climate.

December 3, 2012 8:35 pm

tadchem says:
December 3, 2012 at 8:17 am
“The end point is reached when the moon and earth become tidally ‘locked’ so that the earth always keeps one face towards the moon.”
The Earth’s rotation period has a lot of slowing down to do to match a moving target, then, since the period of revolution of the Moon is decreasing as well. Without having put any numbers into it, I kind of doubt these periods would ever intersect. Most likely, I would think the Moon would eventually be peeled off into a separate orbit about the Sun before tidal locking could occur.
Similarly, the Earth becoming tidally locked to the Sun would require a rotation period of greater than a year. I would suspect that the Earth’s orbit would be well beyond Pluto by that time, and the Earth itself might become part of the Kuiper belt.
Hu McCulloch says:
December 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm
I was going to make that point, too.
Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
December 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm
“If the world suddenly stopped spinning, wouldn’t we all gain weight?”
Now, you’ve done it. The public has lost interest in the hysterical hyping of floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes from AGW. But, if you tell them it makes them gain weight, we will have lost the war over public opinion.

December 3, 2012 9:03 pm

A question: It’s always seemed a bit odd to me that things should be in a state where the moon just *happens* to always keep the same side turned toward Earth. Does it *truly* do so even down to not changing in any ongoing fashion even by a few tenths or hundredths of a degree per year? Has this always been the case? Is there a reason for it? Or is it something that just happens to be that way at the moment and will no longer be true just 50 or 100,000 years from now?
P.S. Bart… LOL! I think you’re right about the pub.opinion!

Gerald Kelleher
December 3, 2012 9:21 pm

The idea of a spinning moon is unbridled insanity,again,the idea of a spinning moon is insane and the only person ever to propose such an aberration was Newton about two paragraphs after he has Venus turning once in 23 hours and the Earth to stellar circumpolar motion in 24 hours
For goodness sake,walk around an object with an outstretched arm pointing at the object and that corresponds to the lunar orbital behavior and why we see the same side always.Introducing a worthless spinning moon into this observation to satisfy libration is similar to introducing inappropriate inputs into climate in order to satisfy a conclusion ,perhaps it would not matter to a mathematical modeler but physical considerations are absolutely crucial for an astronomer working at the juncture between planetary dynamics and terrestrial effects –
“They are just like someone including in a picture hands, feet, head, and other limbs from
different places, well painted indeed, but not modeled from the same body, and not in the least matching each other, so that a monster would be produced from them rather than a man. Thus in the process of their demonstrations, which they call their system, they are found either to have missed out something essential, or to have brought in something inappropriate and wholly irrelevant, which would not have happened to them if they had followed proper principles. For if the hypotheses which they assumed had not been fallacies, everything which follows from them could be independently verified.” De revolutionibus, 1543 Copernicus
Probably the most dismal feature in all this is not the technical aspects where the planet does turn once to the central Sun as a component of its orbital motion while the moon does not turn in its monthly lunar orbital circuit of the Earth,the most dismal part is that we can send an astronaut to the moon who can always keep the Earth in view because the moon doesn’t spin but the theorists refuse to accept it.How much more will they refuse to accept the necessary modifications needed to define climate but then again,I have seen so little interest at the juncture where planetary dynamics and terrestrial climate meet.

December 3, 2012 9:56 pm

michaeljmcfadden says:
December 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm
“…where the moon just *happens* to always keep the same side…”
It’s no accident. See here.

Reply to  Bart
December 4, 2012 5:45 am

Tidal locking! Yes! LOL! Something I had known about long long ago in a mind far far away…
Many thanks for the tip and the reference Bart! Exactly what I needed!

December 3, 2012 10:03 pm

Bart says:
December 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm

tadchem says:
December 3, 2012 at 8:17 am
“The end point is reached when the moon and earth become tidally ‘locked’ so that the earth always keeps one face towards the moon.”
The Earth’s rotation period has a lot of slowing down to do to match a moving target, then, since the period of revolution of the Moon is decreasing as well. Without having put any numbers into it, I kind of doubt these periods would ever intersect. Most likely, I would think the Moon would eventually be peeled off into a separate orbit about the Sun before tidal locking could occur.

Hi Bart. You are correct. The Earth and Moon will never be tidally locked. I did this calculation for myself some years ago, as I believe there is a great benefit in seeing things with your own eyes. The way to do it is simple. There are equations for energy stored in the rotation of the two bodies and in the potential energy of the moon’s orbit (the ‘higher’ it is above the earth, the more PE it has). This total energy can decrease because energy lost in the tides turns into heat. However, there is another set of equations for the total angular momentum of the earth-moon system, and the angular momentum is fixed, except for minor leakages from interactions with other bodies, which we can ignore.
So if we change something (rotational energy of earth due to tides), what must happen to keep the angular momentum constant? It turns out that if the earth loses X energy to heat, it must also lose another X energy pushing the moon into a higher orbit. The earth being so much larger than the moon, it can push the moon all the way to infinity without being tidally locked. Using figures I found on the internet for stuff like the moment of inertia of the planet, etc., I calculated that this would happen when the day was about 55 hours long.
So what about the absurd video? Somehow the earth stops spinning due to some completely non-physical process that doesn’t exist. And they “calculate” what would “happen”?? They tell us that the various layers of the planet would slow at different speeds. How do they know this when the planet is being slowed down by, let’s be blunt about it – magic? Why shouldn’t their magic slow all the layers at the same rate – no actual existing physical process can do it, so we ARE talking about magic after all.
I watched the stupid rubbish (yeah, I know, I would have got more reality out of watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and the final point was a SINGLE mention in the entire piece that it was fictional: “It will never happen like this, but still it reveals the delicate balance that keeps our planet alive.” I think documentary channels owe a greater duty of care to lay audiences than that. Well Nat Geo, answer me this: How do you reveal a “delicate balance” by postulating a fictional process billions of times greater than any natural process occurring to our planet? Heck, I could simply postulate that Maxwell demons set the planet on fire and burn us all to crisps. In fact you only reveal delicate balances by considering the effects of realistic influences, not by making up extreme fantasy (not even science) fiction.
PS to michaeljmcfadden: the moon’s angle does rock around a bit – in fact we get to see somewhat more than 50% of it at one time or another.

Tsk Tsk
December 3, 2012 10:16 pm

“bathed in deadly solar radiation”
We like to call that day. It happens every 24 hours presently.

December 3, 2012 10:22 pm

Bart says:
December 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm
Hopefully, my sloppy terminology was too obvious as to cause confusion. The periods of revolution are, of course, increasing. It is the rates of rotation and revolution which are slowing and decreasing.

george e. smith
December 3, 2012 10:30 pm

I remember in my Physics I class, having to calculate how much longer the day would be, if the entire Royal Navy lined up on the equator, and all setoff (in the mid Pacific), for the Galapagos, at flank speed.
So if one were to grab hold of say the top one metre of the earth surface, along the Greenwich meridian, and hold it stationary with an irresistable force, and peel it off like an onion, and dump it all into space, How many layers of onion would you peel off, before the rest reached zero angular velocity; and how long would that take ??

December 3, 2012 10:31 pm

Ron House says:
December 3, 2012 at 10:03 pm
“…it must also lose another X energy pushing the moon into a higher orbit…”
Not sure why that would be, as the heat is free to go wander the universe. But, for now, I’ll take your word for it that, that’s just how the math works out.
“I calculated that this would happen when the day was about 55 hours long.”
Thanks for sharing your result. In the future, I will tell people, I’m not sure what the limit is, but others have calculated it to be about 55 hours 😉

December 4, 2012 3:58 am

Hi Bart,
“…it must also lose another X energy pushing the moon into a higher orbit…”
This is because of the need to conserve angular momentum, which cannot be created or destroyed, unlike energy, which can be converted into heat. If you deduct some energy from the energy equations, you disturb the angular momentum, and you must put some part of the remaining energy into the moon’s orbital energy to keep angular momentum constant. 55 hours though is just a rough figure, but I like it because I calculated it myself. I am sure a more accurate value could be found with a web search. The key point is that the earth’s rotation can never be stopped by tidal forces, nor can it even be locked to the moon.

December 4, 2012 5:53 am

“bathed in deadly solar radiation”
Of which, of course, “there is no safe level.” Something I have written widely about in my other excursions. : Do the WUWT archives have any in-depth discussions of the whole ozone layer holes caused by freon from deodorant sprays question? That was always something I’ve accepted without much questioning since it was first mooted back in the days before I became as skeptical of motivations as I am nowadays. The process picture of individual molecules repeatedly destroying millions of others in succession seemed convincing. Is the “ozone threat” from freon still widely accepted? Or has that too been highly criticized?

Gerald Kelleher
December 4, 2012 11:16 am

The truly awful cult of the spinning moon is instructive in the same way the issue surrounding climate is instructive ,at least in how this dismal situation will play out – as long as those proposing outrageous ideas own the education system,the conclusion will stick around indefinitely no matter what arguments are brought front and center.So ingrained is the idea that the moon also spins as it orbits the Earth that people are no longer capable of interpreting the observation that it doesn’t spin,even when they can look out their window at the moon and affirm that it does not.
Like this horrible era where the studies between astronomy and terrestrial effects mesh,the adherent to the spinning moon back in the mid 19th century never saw a conclusive disproof because they simply could not and this is over what is perhaps the simplest astronomical interpretation of them all –
He called himself a ‘victim’ of the rotating moon controversy but that is not the point,a century and a half later the awful idea is so fixed in culture that even though it is obviously ridiculous in the space age,people still imagine it can be discussed in a rational way.

December 4, 2012 1:12 pm

No wonder the children of the world are becoming retarded if this is the kinda BS they’re getting exposed to. They were once an asset to the future. But if they follow this pattern of thought…I guess they’re not. I don’t doubt that some school in some country will show this to a science class. I know it’s too early to talk about schooling my one year old, but I’m seriously considering home schooling. That way he will be exposed to real science and not this tripe.

kevin king
December 4, 2012 2:22 pm

Surely human emissions of C02 are responsible for this….I mean it’s responsible for everything else, why should the moon have anything to do with it?

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