This is good news or bad, depending on your view: The Earth is spinning faster than ever, and that means the days are shorter. Have you noticed this? Seen your coffee cup start to shimmy toward the edge of the table?
Probably not. The actual amount of time we've lost is 1.4602 milliseconds a day. So if you lay your head down at night and think, "Where did the day go?" the increased speed probably isn't the reason.
You might be thinking, "The country is coming apart at the seams, and this is the meaningless drivel you're taking up space with?" To which I have two responses:
The correct phrasing is "this is the meaningless drivel with which I'm taking up space." Also, while things might be coming apart, we have to ask: at which seams? The one under the arm? You can stitch that up. The one in the crotch? That's worse; if the entire country squats too suddenly, the rip might be too great to mend.
Anyway, back to the story.
"Scientists believe that the Earth is spinning faster than it has in 50 years," the online report said.
The story had a link under "The Earth." Some editors like to lard the online stories with lots of links, which I find odd. It's like inviting someone over to your house, then gesturing at the door constantly to indicate that there is something more interesting happening somewhere else. You can stop reading the online article whenever you want and leave, you know. But an editor looks at that sentence and immediately decides that people need to be teased with the chance to learn more about the Earth.
Or do they? When you think about it, Earth is a strange name. It refers not just to the planet but the rich crumbly stuff on the surface. This means after you've dug down past the layer of earth, you're still digging through Earth. Except it's rock, which no one would call earth. If you throw a handful of pebbles on the floor, your partner doesn't ask, "Who tracked in all this earth?"
Earth means dirt, in other words. I'll wonder if, when we discover the species on other planets, it'll be the same.
"Greetings, Earthlings. We come in peace from the Planet Dirt."
"So you're Dirtlings?"
"If you wish. What is the name you called us with?"
"First of all, it's proper to say 'what is the name with which you called us?' And second, we called your world Proxima Century IV."
"That's actually better. We called you Other Dirt #9325. You have a poetic way of regarding the infinite mysteries."
And that's how Earth ended up as the publicity department for the Galactic Federation.
Back to the story. I clicked on the Earth link and got another story: "An Asteroid Passed Within 1,830 Miles of the Earth Last Weekend — and It Wasn't Spotted Until After It Went By."
The story also has a link to "Business Insider," but I didn't click on that because I figured it probably would be "A UPS Truck Drove Within 43 blocks of the Business Insider Office Last Weekend — and It Didn't Deliver Any Packages."
One more thing, and it might be the most curious. The story about the days here on Big Round Dirt getting shorter appeared on ... marthastewart.com.
This is not my usual source for news of this sort.
It's possible that Martha is alerting people so they can adjust all their recipes accordingly. It's also possible that Scientific American is running some really cute dessert suggestions, like Scientifically Accurate Baked Alaska:
"The Earth might seem static when viewed from the International Space Station, but it is constantly changing, its massive tectonic plates grinding like performers in a salacious YouTube video. Tremendous forces generate tremendous heat, and one day the plate on which Alaska rests might be plunged into a hellish cauldron of magma. Will the icy region suddenly be consumed with fire, just like the popular dessert served at the end of every cruise ship trip?
"Probably! And here's how you can bring a realistic depiction of that unimaginable disaster to your dinner table, without the devastating tsunami."
And so on. Anyway, the days are shorter, but not by anything you'd notice, and so the entire story matters little unless you're in the business of making sure critical systems that rely on accurate time are properly synced. And even if you are, I don't think you ran into the boss' office with a printout from marthastewart.com and demanded to know, "Why haven't we heard about this?"
Hold on, I have to go back to watching the news. Apparently there's a big development in the Cabinet right now. Events are moving quickly! At least 1.94 milliseconds quicker than last year. At least, that's what the story from toysrus.com says.
email@example.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks