Blueprint for a Dying Earth: what would happen if the world stopped spinning?

Paul Raven @ 28-07-2010

I’m not sure whether I’m a sucker for outlandish “what if?” speculation because I’ve always read science fiction, or whether I read sf because I have some innate speculative itch that I need to scratch. Whichever it may be, this is the sort of thing that pushes a whole lot of my buttons: using modelling software to determine what Planet Earth would look like were it to – for some reason – stop spinning [via BoingBoing].

The lack of the centrifugal effect would result in the gravity of the earth being the only significant force controlling the extent of the oceans. Prominent celestial bodies such as the moon and sun would also play a role, but because of their distance from the earth, their impact on the extent of global oceans would be negligible.

If the earth’s gravity alone was responsible for creating a new geography, the huge bulge of oceanic water—which is now about 8 km high at the equator—would migrate to where a stationary earth’s gravity would be the strongest. This bulge is attributed to the centrifugal effect of earth’s spinning with a linear speed of 1,667 km/hour at the equator. The existing equatorial water bulge also inflates the ellipsoidal shape of the globe itself.


Today, all three world oceans are connected. This creates a global ocean with basically one sea level. As a consequence of rotational slowdown, the outline of the global ocean would continuously undergo dramatic changes. Equatorial waters would move toward polar areas, initially causing a significant reduction in depth while filling the polar basins that have much less capacity. As regions at high latitude in the northern hemisphere become submerged, the areal extent of the northern circumpolar ocean would rapidly expand, covering the vast lowlands of Siberia and northern portions of North America. The global ocean would remain one unit until the rotation of the earth decreased to the speed at which ocean separation would occur. The interaction between the inertia of huge water bodies and decreasing centrifugal force would be very complicated. As the consequence of steady slowdown of earth’s rotation, the global ocean would be gradually separated into two oceans…

Sure, so it’s pretty unlikely to ever happen… and if it did, speculating about topography would be the last of our concerns, I imagine.

But what if…?

[ As a side note, that’s a great way to virally advertise a piece of software that would otherwise only be of interest to 0.001% of the world’s population. Kudos! ]

The jewellery is not the territory

Paul Raven @ 08-09-2009

As the 3D-printing business strives to make itself stand out as a unique and exciting manufacturing method, some pretty weird and wonderful ideas are coming down the pipe.

Via Fabbaloo we discover an outfit called Fluid Forms who offer you the opportunity to buy your own “Earth Brooch” – a 3cm square solid silver jewellery piece that is cast as a miniature reproduction of the geological topography of any section of the Earth’s surface (or presumably that of any other planet which is sufficiently well mapped) that you choose. [image ganked from Fluid Forms under Fair Use terms; contact for take-down if required]

Earth Brooch by Fluid Forms

Leaving aside the manufacturing process (which would have been considerably more difficult even just a few years ago), these are still rather intriguing little trinkets – the sort of thing I’d expect to find in a Karl Schroeder novel. Imagine a society where such brooches were a commonplace indicator of status and rank, the label of the (literally) landed gentry – the legitimacy of your claim of ownership over a chunk of land (be it physical or virtual) embodied in a unique badge issued by the central governing authority…

And once you start thinking of 3D printing in these terms, other weird ideas for one-off jewellery and costume items leap to mind. Expectant mothers could transform their latest fetal scans into a brooch that replicates their unborn child in silver… poets could literally wear their hearts on their sleeves… and, moving away from the more expensive materials, fancy dress parties could be full of people wearing life-accurate masks of those celebrities who had chosen to monetize their face in the most literal way possible…