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Thread: What if earth rotated once a year instead of once a day?

  1. #1 What if earth rotated once a year instead of once a day? 
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    I'm writing a paper trying to answer this question. What would life be like if the earth rotated so slowly that one side of the planet always faced the sun? Much like how the moon and the earth rotate in such a way that we always see the same side of the moon. I, of course, have chosen the western hemispere to be the side that always faces the sun. How would life be different? What would the temperature and climates be?

    On the sun side, I've decided that the hottest climates would be virtually unbareable. That's where we'd send our worst criminals to do hard time. Some parts of the sun side would be so hot that albinoes would be banned from entering. All bodies of water would be smaller than they currently are do to advanced evaporation. Beach sports would be major events at the olympics.

    The dark side of earth would have been largely uninhabitable for centuries. The only colonies would be around volcanoes. That is until the industrial revolution when we were able to harness energy from the sun on the sun side and ship it to the dark side.

    Any thoughts on what life would be like?


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    Forum Senior silkworm's Avatar
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    It would be unbearably cold on the dark side of the Earth, much like the dark side of the moon only there it would be persistently cold because of all of the water on this planet. Actually, the dark side would probably eventually trap all of the worlds water in one giant iceberg and life on this planet would not be possible, from the lack of water and precipitation (from water being trapped) and intense and constant radiation on the side facing the sun.


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    I don't think the dark side could suck up all water. There would come a point where the water would be closer to the sun side and be too warm to freeze.

    I estimate the average temperature at the equator on the sun side at 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

    If life isn't possible in this scenereo, then all the times the professor assigned this paper before would have made for 6-8 really boring pages.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I looked into this possibility a few months ago and regretably did not keep a note of the relevant papers and articles I found.
    The conclusion seems to be that silkworm is right, but he does not go far enough. It is not just the water that would freeze out on the dark side, but the atmosphere also. The atmospheric heat derived from sunlit side would not be sufficient to maintain temperatures on the dark side, and these would fall progressively.
    On the sunlit side, gradually deprived of its water and atmosphere, life would experience a slow decline to oblivion.
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    Forum Senior silkworm's Avatar
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    I didn't think of the whole atmosphere, I just thought of the water vapor, but I could definitely see how that would get sucked up by the dark side also.

    Good call Ophiolite.
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    Mankind is very resilient. I'm sure the articles you read didn't account for the fact that instead of working on inventions like sliced bread and TiVo, we would have been working on ways to solve the water crisis. In my paper, I talk about a man who invents a device that sucks all the water out of the human body. He is later put to death by that device.

    Also in my paper, solar energy is harnessed and used to power our lives, much the way electricity and fossil fuels do. Water factories on the dark side of the planet are constantly melting snow and ice to provide the world with water. Plant life evolves to require less water. The animals on the dark side have something in their bloodstream that acts like antifreeze (which, in real life, scientists have actually found in some arctic fish).

    I was just looking for some creative ideas. I can't fill up six pages with the world is going to end, run with scissors, mix beer and wine, and don't bother to file your taxes.
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    Forum Senior silkworm's Avatar
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    No, I'm definitely taking the human spirit into account. Simply put, earth starts rotatiting today, I give all live things on Earth (except for Archaea) about a month before there's no more life on the planet whatsoever. You're failing to take into account our dependence on the earth and what a catastrophic event it would be if it stopped rotatitng.

    In my paper, I talk about a man who invents a device that sucks all the water out of the human body. He is later put to death by that device.
    Astronauts recycle water as well, I'd look for material there for your paper. You need this guy in a spacesuit anyway because air breathable air will quickly be on its way out. The suit will help him with the radiation too.

    Also in my paper, solar energy is harnessed and used to power our lives, much the way electricity and fossil fuels do.
    That's like taking a barbecue to Hell.

    I was just looking for some creative ideas. I can't fill up six pages with the world is going to end, run with scissors, mix beer and wine, and don't bother to file your taxes.
    Sorry kid, you could detail exactly what would happen and write an essay about how dependent we are on the rotation of the earth, but the fact is if the earth stops rotating today we wouldn't make it.
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    I never said the earth would have to stop rotating today. In fact, I never said it stopped at all. I said it slowed so we spin once a year instead of once a day.

    I never said there couldn't be some cataclysmic event that would cause this slowing. In my paper, a meteorite the size of Alaska hits the Middle East. All life is wiped out and has to start over. Most of the body of text takes place long after the meteorite struck.

    I could have just as easily said instead that God was bored one day and decided to smite all the nonbelievers and jerks of the world by destroying humankind and starting over with a few changes.

    I could have made the entire scenario a dream that Einstein had.

    The reason I picked a science forum to pose this question instead of say, the eBay forum, was because I thought I would get some answers to the questions I asked that were based on some reasonable scientific theory and not my just imagination. I wanted to see if people thought the temps would reach up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 2000 degrees, not "hot as hell." I wanted to see if people thought there would be high winds or heavy storms in the "dusky" areas on the edge of the hemisphere.

    The idea about space suits is an interesting start. I hadn't thought about trying to colonize another planet or anything like that.
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    I meant space suits on earth because you wouldn't be able to handle the radiation or get oxygen from the environment here on Earth, and I'm not going to do quantitative analysis for you but the qualitative analysis I have offered is sound.

    I understand you want me to say things that agree with your thinking and to do calculations for you, but I'm not going to do that. The fact is the more time one side spends facing the sun the more extreme the differences in both sides, the more radiation everything feels and the more the water and the atmosphere have disappeard because of the extreme differences. I'm basing a lot of it on thermodynamics. If it happened now all living things would be traveling rapidly toward oblivion, if the Earth has always had one side facing life would not have propagated as it has under such extreme conditions and may not have existed to any significant degree in the first place.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    i*mapepper, your original question strongly implied that we were to envisage an Earth that had been tidally-locked for eons.
    What would life be like if the earth rotated so slowly that one side of the planet always faced the sun?
    No mention here of a change from the current 24 hour day to the tidal-lock scenario.
    In that case my original position stands. Atmospheric freeze out on the dark side. No opportunity for life to develop.

    With your newly defined scenario of stopping, almost, the rotation by some means, I am afraid the end result is the same. Now, perhaps in one year or a hundred, someone will run some better simulations and demonstrate mechanisms whereby viable conditions could be maintained, but that is not where we are today. So, if you want a scientific answer to your question the answer remains "No way."

    I've been trying to come up with some twist that would allow your desire of life to been maintained somehow, but I can't. What about the zone between light and dark for example. There could be water in permeable rocks at an equable temperature between the two hemispheres, but some would evaporate, then drift to the cold side and freeze, permanently.
    So what if we keep resupplying it via volcanism and plate tectonics. The problem there is, without water it is questionable whether plate tectonics could even operate.

    Question: is this a science project, an English essay, what exactly?
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    First I would like to point out the following fact.

    Tidal friction on the earth is very slowly causing the rotation of the earth to slow down. To compensate (conserving momentum) the moon moves farther away from the earth. So in billions of years from now, the moon will be 35% farther away and the earth and moon will both rotate only once every 47 days in the same period as they go around each other, just like pluto and its moon charon do now (with a different period).

    If the moon had started out closer to the earth then this equillibrium would have occured much sooner or would have already occured. I think the resulting surface conditions would mostly likely, in my guess, have been more like venus, which rotates only once every 117 earth days.
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

    I now have a blog too: http://astahost.blogspot.com/
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    Correct me if I'm wrong Mitchell, but that point is not just billions of years away, but many billions of years away. More, in fact, than the Earth will survive for, as the sun near's the end of its life.
    Theoretically, once the tidal lock of the Earth-moon system is in place the moon begins to move closer to the Earth again, but maintaining the lock.
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  14. #13  
    Forum Senior silkworm's Avatar
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    Also there's still rotation and I haven't done any calculations on how slow the rotation must be to drop the balls on the juggling act, so to speak.

    If the moon had started out closer to the earth then this equillibrium would have occured much sooner or would have already occured. I think the resulting surface conditions would mostly likely, in my guess, have been more like venus, which rotates only once every 117 earth days.
    The moon did start out closer to the Earth and I think the early "days" of earth were about 47 minutes long, if I remember correctly.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silkworm
    Also there's still rotation and I haven't done any calculations on how slow the rotation must be to drop the balls on the juggling act, so to speak.

    The moon did start out closer to the Earth and I think the early "days" of earth were about 47 minutes long, if I remember correctly.
    Interesting. I suppose that is from calculating backward to when they think the solar system began, about 5 billion years isn't it? I would love to see the math on that (if I don't get around to doing it myself).
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

    I now have a blog too: http://astahost.blogspot.com/
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    I'm sure there's information on it, if I run across anything online on it I'll post it here.
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  17. #16  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Now this is not very scientific, but that simply does not sound correct to me - the forty seven minutes. My recollection is that planets tend to rotate in around ten hours, unless something untoward has happened to them [which is, perhaps, the norm].
    I do recall, that by studying the growth patterns of Devonian corals, geologists were able to determine there were around 400 days in the Devonian year. Just for amusement, if we simplistically assume the rate of slowing is uniform, then when the Earth was formed it was turning once every ten and a bit hours.
    That's practically the same as my 'gut feel' of ten hours, so I'll stick with that, rather than the forty seven minutes, for the moment.
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    Forum Senior silkworm's Avatar
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    I know that sounds ridculous but I think I heard the number from NASA. I'm talking about very early Earth too. It may have been from the Discovery Science Channel's Miracle Planet series. I need to write down where I get ridiculous sounding information so this sort of thing doesn't happen.
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  19. #18  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I wasn't ruling it out. My ten hour figure was based upon similarly hazy sources. Google to the rescue. I located this thoroughly interesting article - Cellular Oscillators as Vestiges of a Primitive Circadian Clock. You can find it here.
    http://www.talandic.com/pubs/vestige.html

    Here is the key point from the conclusion.
    By most reckoning, the earth and moon were in close proximity at some time more than three eons ago. At that time the solar day was probably less than 10 hr, possibly as short as 4-5 hr,
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  20. #19  
    Forum Senior silkworm's Avatar
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    That is an interesting article, I need to translate it while I read it to make sure I understand it, but I saw your figures.

    I just saw on ABC news that because the Earth's rotation is slowing down December 31st will be 1 second longer this year - a leap second.

    I'm still looking for that information. It may have been 47 minutes of day light too, which would make a whole day a little over an hour and a half.
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