What would happen if the world stopped turning?
December 10, 2006 7:11 PM   Subscribe

What would happen if the world stopped turning?

Would the gravity be sufficient to keep us all on the planet? Or would we just fly off into space?
posted by Lucie to Science & Nature (12 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: hypothetical chatfilter: read the FAQ please

Gravity is in no way effected by the spinning of the earth.

The more important question is HOW the earth would be made to stop spinning. THAT could have a lot to do with what happens afterwards.
posted by tiamat at 7:15 PM on December 10, 2006

The Straight Dope

Starry skies

posted by aye at 7:17 PM on December 10, 2006

As long as there is celestial motion, the earth will never stop turning. Relative to what is in motion, the earth is always turning.

If the earth were to 'stop turning' then everything else would have to stand still as well.
posted by psyward at 7:33 PM on December 10, 2006

What would happen if the world stopped turning suddenly?

Or what would happen if it gradually slowed down?

In the former case, yes of course we'd all be killed.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:36 PM on December 10, 2006

In both cases we'd all be killed. I suppose if it stopped suddenly we'd all get mashed up... sort of like being thrown from a car at 1,000 miles per hour (if you're near the equator.) You'd bash into shit or maybe.... maaaybe if you were in the desert you'd just whip right off into space. That'd be sweet.

If the earth stopped gradually, so that you didn't turn into mash, everyone on the dark side would freeze and everyone on the light side would burn up.

this is how the dinosaurs died.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:44 PM on December 10, 2006

If the rotational speed of the Earth were enough so that in your scenario we could "fly off into space", the Earth would have destroyed itself while it was originally being formed.

A person standing on the equator travels 40,075 kilometers in 24 hours because of Earth's rotation, or about 1670 kilometers per hour. Escape velocity for the Earth is 39,600 kilometers per hour, which means that our hypothetical equatorial man is only moving 4% of escape velocity.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:52 PM on December 10, 2006

Actually, if the Earth stopped spinning, you'd weigh more, unless you live at the North or South Pole.

The spinning of the Earth causes centripetal, outward, acceleration. Earth's gravity is sucking you down to its surface, but the rotation is trying to fling you into starry space.

Googling, the centripetal acceleration at the equator is 0.03 meters per second per second outwards. This is small change. If you had a comical Monty Python 16-ton weight on the equator and the Earth stopped spinning, the weight would weigh 9.8 pounds more.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:53 PM on December 10, 2006

"this is how the dinosaurs died."

That's a bold statement.
posted by deep_sea_diving_suit at 7:59 PM on December 10, 2006

One day would equal one year. That would cause all kinds of temperature differentials that do not presently exist. Winds, ocean currents, etc. would change dramatically, throwing off migration patterns for fish, birds, mammals, etc. Many species would die. There would be resulting food shortages. More energy would be consumed to cope with the more extreme cold and warm seasons. Then you would see weapons-grade pandemonium.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:03 PM on December 10, 2006

steven c. den beste - I stand corrected. But... you would instantly begin moving at approx. 1,000 miles per hour, which might hurt.

ROU - the straight dope article says a 100 pound person would weigh an additional 5 ounces at the equator.

deep_sea_diving_suit - it's in the bible. book of philesians. 6:19.

Basically, everything not firmly bolted down would do a quick, slidy number to the left. This probably includes tectonic plates.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2006

everyone on the dark side would freeze and everyone on the light side would burn up

That's a bold statement as well, considering there are parts of the earth that go with midnight sun or the opposite for chunks of the year...so the negative effect would be a bit more gradual than that.

One thing that would change would be weather systems. Our weather is affected by the coriolis effect, which would no longer be present, so the tendency of winds to come from the west (at least in the northern hemisphere, not sure about southern) would be greatly reduced. In addition, the coldness of the poles and the warmth of the equator is another factor in how weather moves on this planet, and with the earth standing still, and one side always facing the sun, you can expect dramatic changes in ocean atmosphere movement.

I also expect that since the wider equator and flattened poles would need to balance out, we can expect some impressive geological type events such as earthquakes and what have you.
posted by furtive at 8:12 PM on December 10, 2006

Also, there is no telling what sort of weirdness would befall our magnetic field as the earths molten core spun down...
posted by phrontist at 8:29 PM on December 10, 2006

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