An article in Monday’s Washington Post caught my eye: “Earth’s inner core seems to be slowing its spin.” This gave me pause. So, I wondered, does this mean that eventually our planet will stop spinning and we’ll all be flung into outer space in the absence of gravity? Fortunately, a sentence below the headline reassured, “This isn’t the beginning of the end times.” Good to know.
The reporter went on to explain what exactly constitutes the Earth’s inner core (“a superheated ball of iron slightly smaller than the moon”) and various ways that deep-earth scientists measure its spin, and the debate over whether the inner core is actually slowing, or slows and speeds up in cycles, and related implications. One of the most interesting takeaways—all this internal movement that I never knew about plays a key role in establishing the Earth’s magnetic field, which protects us from cosmic radiation. It also influences the length of each day. Which, it turns out, has been increasing by milliseconds for centuries.
How this unseen, spinning molten mass affects life on Earth remains one of the mysteries of our universe. Somehow, this strikes me as totally appropriate. So much of what matters in life is hidden beneath the surface. How well do we really know others, let alone those whom we’re closest to, let alone ourselves?
And so, on this snowy afternoon, as I watch huge flakes drifting by my window, bending evergreen branches in our backyard beneath a plump coat of white, I’m grateful for that mysterious ball of molten iron, whirling well beneath us, ensuring that we won’t be destroyed by cosmic rays. So much seems uncertain in this world, I’ll take it on faith. And a millisecond longer day, too.
Image: Javier Miranda