Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gotta A Second?

It’s December 28, 2005 and in the low sixties here in Middle Tennessee. Global warming; ain’t no two ways about it. But, to tell you the truth, I am no longer worried about global warming. I’m worried about global slowing.

Scientists have known about this since 1972, and have been keeping us in the dark by adding leap seconds, twenty-two of them to date, to the atomic clock. But moving the second hand on the dial won’t change the fact that the earth’s rotation is slowing down.

Do you get that?!? Do you know what will happen if the earth slows to a crawl?!? Do you know what that will do to life on this planet?!? Do you?!?

I don’t. But I know it is going to be bad. You don’t have to believe in dinosaurs or melting ice caps to figure out that if the earth stops rotating half of us are going to be stuck in perpetual daylight. It will never get dark. Forget Nick at Night. Forget Elvira Mistress of the Dark. Forget Nightline. (Already did? OK, but remember Ted Koppel.)

Of course some of us will end up in perpetual night. That isn’t so bad. Prime time television all day, late late late late night comedy shows that can run on for months, sleeping in for eternity. But maybe not. Maybe it means that everyone will have to work the nightshift. That can’t be good.

So it doesn’t matter which side of the globe you are on, global slowing is bad. And you can’t fix it by adjusting clocks or driving hybrid cars. The first just masks the problem; the second has nothing to do with it at all and I have no idea why I even mention it except to say that I may be more agitated than I thought I was and I am grasping at straws.

But why would God make a world that slows down? “There was evening, there was morning, a first day—“ Genesis, remember? Why would God lie to us? Why would he set the world a-spinnin’ only to let it run down like a, like a— oh my God!— like a watch!

The Deists were right! God is a cosmic watchmaker who wound our world up and left us to fend for ourselves while it winds down. So that’s it, then. Short of having Superman fly around the earth at super speed (clock-wise this time) and get things back to normal, what are we to do? I have wracked my brain over this and I can’t think of a single thing.

So here’s the straight dope: The earth rotates at about 1000 miles per hour, that’s 2.77777778 miles a second. There are 31,556,926 seconds in a year. So the earth will stop rotating in 11,687,750 years. That’s barely enough time for most of us to pay off our school loans! This is the end.

This New Year’s Eve we will count down from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 to 00:00:00. That middle step is a sop to our fears. We can change the clock but we can’t stop the slowing. We are doomed. Happy one second closer to oblivion new year.

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