Hey you, can you help me move this planet a bit to the left?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Whenever I met people who told me that solving a particular problem was impossible, I liked to remind them of just what people are capable of. We're extraordinary. We're a species of problem solvers. Hell, we're the apes who moved a planet.

No, really.

Dr Benjamin Fong Chao of the Goddard Space Flight Center recently identified that the earth's rotation has slowed by 0.2 millionths of a second per day for the last 40 years solely because of the weight of water being concentrated in reservoirs between the equator and the poles. Just building one hydroelectric power station – the Three Gorges Dam in China – has increased the length of a day by 0.06 microseconds and has shifted the position of the Earth’s poles by about ¾ of an inch.

The effects are minimal, admittedly, and earthquakes and other natural disasters have a much greater impact. But remember that this is a planet we’re talking about; a giant ball of rock 24,900 miles in circumference, with a surface area of 316,940,318.539 square miles and weighing around 6.6 sextillion (6,600,000,000,000,000,000) tons.  For us fragile little humans to have moved it at all is staggeringly impressive.

So don't tell me we can't solve a particular problem.

We can do anything we set our minds to.

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Publication date: May 2016
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