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Japan Earthquake May Have Shifted Earth's Axis 253

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the buy-a-new-clock dept.
Zothecula writes "Using a complex model to perform a theoretical calculation based on a US Geological Survey, Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has determined that by changing the distribution of the Earth's mass, the earthquake that devastated Japan last Friday should have sped up the Earth's rotation, resulting in a day that is about 1.8 microseconds (1.8 millionths of a second) shorter."
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Japan Earthquake May Have Shifted Earth's Axis

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  • by Albert Sandberg (315235) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:29PM (#35505160) Homepage

    ... the work day got about 0.6 microseconds shorter, woo! Oh, wait....

    • by Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @01:12PM (#35505758)

      That's coming out of your paycheck.

    • I'd be interested if it would help my 5 year old deal with daylight savings time
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        Ok, earthquakes, tsunamis, nuke meltdowns, earth off axis, daylight savings time....

        Can we all face the fact this is a HUGE government coverup?

        I think we now have proof that there is a Godzilla, and this is all Godzilla related turmoil. Sheesh..can we not get a senate investigative committee together?

        I mean, if they're willing to put so much time, money and effort into steroids in baseball, surely we rate at least as much time into the Godzilla effect?

  • Now I need to recalibrate my clocks!
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      It won't add up to a whole second for about 1711.2 years.

      • So what? Some of us prefer to be ahead of time.

  • by lxs (131946) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:32PM (#35505202)

    Did I read that correctly? Did the summary explain to us what a microsecond is?

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Many people don't know what the common SI prefixes mean. When we were kids, we used to refer to the partial seconds (hundreds of a second or centiseconds?) as microseconds. I'm sure that common mistake stuck with a bunch of people into adult hood. For many people microseconds probably has no meaning at all, or they have the wrong meaning.
      • I bitched about a mangled printing of a number, and suggested scientific notation, 5.0e-06 m for 5 micrometers. A biologist replied saying, "I know micro is smaller than milli and that is enough. 5.0e-06 looks scary to me". He is not dumb, after all, he is a biologist. It would have taken him less than two minutes to understand the exponent notation and thus get a much richer understanding of numbers. But still SI notation somehow is seen very unfriendly.
        • by idontgno (624372)
          Most people look at SI and wonder when the Swimsuit Edition is coming out.
          • by Chelloveck (14643)

            If the Système international had a swimsuit edition there'd be much more interest in science. Among males, anyway. But hey, I'd go for equal time for guys in Speedos if it'll bring more females into science.

        • by Machtyn (759119)
          The problem humans have, in general, is understanding large numbers. The inverse is also true, humans have, in general, a difficult time understanding small numbers. Comprehending that 1.3 million earths fit in the sun is really mind-blowing (and the sun, itself, is incredibly small compared to some stars). But so is understanding a particle is one billion times smaller than a millimeter.

          It's enough for most of us to abstract that out. There is one AU of distance between the Earth and the Sun, mm is
        • by Amouth (879122)

          A biologist ... He is not dumb, after all, he is a biologist. It would have taken him less than two minutes to understand the exponent notation

          I'm sorry how does one work in a science related field and not understand exponent notation - and even if they did why would it take anywhere near two minutes for them to understand it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Thats was translation of metric units for US readers. Otherwise they would think microsecond is 1/12 second.
    • 1.8 microseconds (1.8 millionths of a second)

      Second? I don't care for a second, the second is the first loser!

      What I want to know is who is on first.

    • Did I read that correctly? Did the summary explain to us what a microsecond is?

      Only on Slashdot will a summary explain an easily parsed term, yet another summary will simply assume a technical word from some obtuse field known to a few hundred people is common knowledge (and so be left uninterpreted).

  • May have? Every time you move an apple from one side of the room to the other it'll shift the axis. Something like this has done it for sure. The only question is: how much? This is a perfect example of journalists needing to have two viewpoints and just not understanding which are the possible differences. Anybody who thinks there are two (rather than one or many) possible right answers is in need of either and anti-lobotomy or a brain transplant....
    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      Or they're solving a quadratic equation?
    • Simple equal and opposing forces.

      Now, on the other hand, if you lay down on the floor from a standing position, you have had an impact on speeding up the rotation of the Earth.

      Ultimately the net effect of all of us moving ourselves (and apples) around all day has little cumulative effect. However, if you engage in the fun activity of burning petrol in your automobile, which was once deep in the ground, you have actually contributed to change in the Earth's rotation. Also, if you climb a hill, pick up a ha

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:37PM (#35505280)
    Shift happens.
  • Shifting the axis? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Superdarion (1286310) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:39PM (#35505308)
    Everytime I heard that the Earth's axis had been changed during the Chile earthquake, I figured it was the rotation axis. I thought it was a little far-fetched, but I wasn't one to argue with the data. However, it is NOT the rotational axis that was shifted and this article finally clarifies that. I read many others before (probably regurgitations of the real scientific paper) and they never said that.

    Apparently, the axis that shifted is that of mass, called the Figure Axis, meaning the axis of symmetry in the Earth's mass distribution. We're still rotating in the same direction (defined by an axis which is not the Figure one), though.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:40PM (#35505316)

    Eh, it's just God setting us up for 2012. Just needed to tweek the axis a bit before he could start destroying us all. It's like tuning a set of rabbit ears on an old television.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>>It's like tuning a set of rabbit ears on an old television.

      Old??? Hey! Some of us still use "rabbit ears" aka antennas, you insensitive clod!

      • by antdude (79039)

        Ditto. I use OTA for my DTV feeds since I am under 20 miles from the transmitters. :)

  • physics explanation (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikem170 (698970) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:56PM (#35505538) Homepage

    The site startswithabang [scienceblogs.com] has an excellant description of why this happens.

    What happens, basically, is that during an earthquake heavier rock is being pulled from the crust towards the center of the earth. The radius of the planet shrinks a tiny bit and, like a skater pulling in their arms, causes it to spin faster.

  • GPS affected? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skylerweaver (997332) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @01:04PM (#35505630)
    Many of the comments on here are "1.8 microseconds, oh no I get less sleep! What a stupid finding."

    But seriously, does this have an effect on GPS? GPS satellites need to be corrected for relativistic effects that cause their clocks to tick 38 microseconds/day different than the ground; which would cause error to accumulate at 10km/day. Does 1.8 microsecond difference in our day cause error to accumulate in GPS at the rate of 0.5km/day if not fixed?
    • by tibit (1762298)

      You're certainly right to an extent. What you imply is a special event is in fact the daily bread and butter of keeping up a positioning system satellite constellation. The GPS system's frame of reference is being constantly kept in sync with Earth's rotation. After all, the satellites are simply orbiting the Earth in some arbitrary orbits, and the ground stations constantly monitor their orbits. The orbital data -- the ephemerides -- are broadcast to GPS receivers. The net effect of changing Earth's rotati

    • But seriously, does this have an effect on GPS? [...] Does 1.8 microsecond difference in our day cause error to accumulate in GPS at the rate of 0.5km/day if not fixed?

      A very small and temporary one. When effects like this are discovered, the ground stations uplink corrections to the birds which then downlink them to your GPSr.

  • We need to fund research on how we can use this mechanism to create the 25hr day so I can get an extra hour (preferably for sleep) each day.
  • by Idarubicin (579475) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (teiuqslla)> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @01:12PM (#35505752) Journal
    Angular momentum conserved!

    Newton still right!

    Basic principles of mechanics remain sound!

    Film at eleven.

    The speed of the Earth's rotation changes every time I ride an elevator, too. (Please resist the temptation to make a fat joke here; it's too obvious to be worth the trouble.) On a more impressive scale, there's a significant and variable amount of angular momentum stored in the atmosphere. Changes in major air currents year over year (things like El Nino, for instance) can change the length of the day by close to a millisecond: hundreds of times more than this little earthquake.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      The speed of the Earth's rotation changes every time I ride an elevator, too.

      That depends on the type of elevator.
      If it's counterweighted, not so much, and possibly not at all if it's balanced for the payload of one passenger weighing the same as you.
      If it's a telescoping or wall-riding type, far more, because then the mass of the elevator itself also counts.

  • This englishman is feeling horribly sad about our cousins over there in Japan

    If you live on a mostly island nation, there is nowhere to run , nowhere to hide

    Personally, as an atheist, i'm tempted to pray for my (potentially future) friends over there

    Different cultures, they don't matter...

    Even now in the 21st century on earth we can have our "chestnuts" rattled quite easily

    5.2,5.3 richter here in athens feels like nothing at all to worry about....

    and btw, don't forget our new zealand friends who are f

  • Look at the amount that the pole moves and the length of day changes annually [obspm.fr]. The normal variations are 1000 times greater than anything the earthquake has caused. See the IERS saying "hardly discernible" [obspm.fr] because a large snowstorm can cause a greater change.
  • This is the second KNOWN possible shift. The first was the one off of Indonesia that was a 9.1 (about). So I wonder, does this mean that a quake of magnitude over 9 will cause a shift in the earths rotation. I wonder if the meteor that hit the earth that 'killed the dinosaurs' caused such a shift or larger which resulted in the climate change that changed this world forever.
  • Now my iPod *really* won't wake me up in time!

  • Just askin'.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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