Simply put: Earth is spinning faster and here’s how it could impact your lives

  • The blue planet Earth usually takes 24 hours to rotate on its axis but not anymore.
  • On July 29, Earth’s full spin was 1.50 milliseconds shorter than 24 hours, which means Earth experienced its shortest day ever and it wasn’t just a one-time fluke.
  • Here’s how Earth spinning faster could impact you.

If you feel like time is passing by at a faster pace, it is not just in your head!

Earth is meeting its targets even before its deadline, becoming the latest ‘victim of hustle culture.’ Earth recorded its shortest day last week, ever since scientists began using atomic clocks to measure its rotational speed.

The blue planet usually takes 24 hours to rotate on its axis but not anymore. On July 29, Earth’s full spin was 1.50 milliseconds shorter than 24 hours, which means Earth experienced its shortest day ever.

However, this wasn’t just a one-time fluke. Earth has been in a hurry in recent years. As per International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems (IERS), in 2020, Earth recorded 28 shortest days.

If Earth continues to break records with its speed, scientists will be forced to introduce a leap second in universal time.

Earth’s faster rotation could affect our clocks

The time that you and your mobile phone live by is dictated by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). It is responsible for setting your time zone. This time, also known as astronomical time, is dependent on how long it takes for Earth to complete one rotation.

As the rotation speed picks up, people who watch the Earth’s rotation and world’s clock for a living, will have to introduce a leap second to keep up with Earth’s pace and synchronize clocks with it.

So far, to maintain the integrity of time, around 27 leap seconds have been introduced due to imprecise observed solar time (UT1) and UTC, and the last one was in 2016.

For example, a leap second with an unusual timestamp could look like this:

23:59:59 -> 23:59:60 -> 00:00:00

Engineers and scientists are fighting against the introduction of leap seconds.

Not only can leap seconds affect your clock, but it could also impact internet servers.

For example, back in 2012, Reddit experienced a massive outage because of a leap second. Its site was inaccessible for 30 to 40 minutes, which happened due to changes in time patterns. It sparked hyperactivity on the servers, which locked up the machines’ CPUs.

Mozilla and Gawker also had a similar experience. All these internet companies synchronize their time using Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers via Linux libraries and kernels.

Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi said that while the impact of a negative leap second has never been tested on a large scale, it could have a devastating effect on the software relying on timers or schedulers.

So, every leap second could be a major source of pain for people who manage hardware infrastructures.

Why is the Earth rotating faster?

While there are many reasons contributing to Earth’s faster pace, one of the reasons is the melting and refreezing of ice caps on the world’s tallest mountains. Due to this, there’s less weight on the poles.

Apart from climate, it could also be related to processes in Earth’s inner or outer layers, oceans or tides.

Scientists are also blaming ‘Chandler wobble.’

No, not that Chandler.

Chandler wobble is a small deviation in the Earth’s axis of rotation. When tides change or winds move water, or earthquakes cause blips, Earth’s spin on its axis experiences a wobble.

So, the next time you feel that time is running out and feel the sand slipping too fast through your hands, it might just be Earth trying to outrun the clock again.

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