National Geographic presents a really stupid program

Disaster movies are popular these days, but National Geographic has produced one of the most stupid pseudoscience scenarios I have ever seen. Their program is “When The Earth Stops Spinning.”

The National Geographic website gives the program premise as follows:

“If the Earth was to suddenly stop our seas and the atmosphere would change so drastically that it would no longer be able to support human life. Looking to a future where one side of the planet is dark and cold for six months at a time, and the other is bathed in deadly solar radiation, this episode explores how long human and animal life might survive in a cruel new, stationary world.” (By the way, did you catch the grammatical errors in the first sentence?)

Earth’s rotation about its axis is slowing down due to the gravitational effects of the moon, as shown in the graphic below.

Earth-moon

  The tidal bulges “lead” the moon because the rotation of the Earth is faster than the reaction time of the oceans, rocks, and mantle.

Atomic clocks show that the Earth’s spin on its axis is slowing by 1.7 milliseconds every 100 years. At that rate it would take about 1.9 trillion years to stop spinning.

But the Earth would not actually stop spinning. Earth’s rotation would slow to a point that matches the rotation of the moon around the earth and one side of Earth would continuously face the moon. At that point, one Earth day would be a month long. (See an article about tidal friction from Britannica here.)

I am a fan of science fiction, and the best science fiction is based on some valid scientific principle. The National Geographic program lacks even a remote connection to science. See more comments on the program from Anthony Watts and the full 46-minute program here.

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