How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 61

You said that when you were spinning around in circles, you were actually causing the earth to move, but it was too tiny a motion to notice. If everyone on the planet got together in one area and started spinning around at exactly the same time and with the same angular velocity, could the effect of the people causing the earth to move be noticed?
I don't think that it would be possible to detect any change in the earth's rotation. The earth has a mass of about 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg, which is about 20,000,000,000,000 times the mass of all the people on earth. The earth's moment of inertia is even more different than that of the people because much of the earth's mass is located far from its rotational axis. So if all of the people gathered together and started spinning one way, the effect on the earth would be to make it spin the other way about 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000 as much. The result might be that the day would change lengths by about a trillionth of a second. (1/1,000,000,000,000 s). That change is less than the natural fluctuations in the earth's rotation rate, so no one would ever notice. You might find it interesting that the earth's rotation rate changes slightly with the seasons because of snow in the mountains. When there is lots of snow in the northern hemisphere (during its winter), the earth's moment of inertia increases just enough to slow its rotation. The day is a tiny bit longer than during our summer. People might be able to duplicate this effect by all climbing to the tops of mountains.

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