Don’t believe everything on social media

Been dizzy lately?

Some naysayers and social media surfers might argue there’s good reason for that.

You see, the Earth is spinning faster, and the days are getting shorter.

Multiple reports from reputable media outlets quoting legitimate news sources indicate that, indeed, the Earth is spinning faster. On June 29, in fact, the Earth recorded its shortest day ever — a full 1.59 millisecond less than the average day.

A millisecond is one-thousandth of a second. For comparison, normal length of a day on Earth is 86,400 seconds.

However, since 2016, Earth’s rotation has accelerated, leading some days to be shorter. (Yes, scientists all over the world really do measure this stuff.)

Apparently, some people think Earth’s acceleration is big cause for concern.

It’s such a big deal to some on social media, in fact, that The Associated Press did a story about it last week for its weekly “Not Real News” section.

In its story, the AP quoted one tweet that had been shared nearly 35,000 times: “They broke news of earth spinning faster, which seems like it should be bigger news.”

While some have tweeted jokes and skepticism about the magnitude of the time measurement, others are voicing big worries about the effects of losing a millisecond of their days here or there.

Indeed, it is alarming.

Frankly, I’m not sure if I’m more worried about the increased pace of the Earth’s spin adding to my already dizzy personality, or about the fact that 24 hours already isn’t enough time to accomplish all my daily tasks. Shorter days simply won’t do!

Never fear, though. Scientists tell the AP that the Earth’s rotational speed fluctuates constantly, and the record-setting measurement is nothing to lose sleep over.

“It’s a completely normal thing,” Stephen Merkowitz, a scientist and project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The AP. “There’s nothing magical or special about this. It’s not such an extreme data point that all the scientists are going to wake up and go, what’s going on?”

The slight increase in rotational speed also does not mean that days are going by noticeably faster.

If time measurements get too out of sync, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, an organization that maintains global time, may fix the discrepancy by adding a leap second.

CBS News reported this month, however, some scientists believe taking drastic measures like adding a leap second could lead to large-scale and devastating tech issues that could eventually trigger “predictable and devastating outages across the world.”

Yep, all from adding or subtracting a leap second to the world’s clocks!

Positive leap seconds, they say, could cause a time jump, resulting in IT programs crashing or data being corrupted. And a negative leap second? Don’t even get me started!

OK, some might say I’m carelessly making light of this serious situation.

But do you remember the incredible devastation that was expected to come from the Y2K bug?

Y2K was the computer flaw doomsdayers predicted would devastate the world as we knew it the minute we ticked from 1999 to 2000, all thanks to our newfound reliance on computer technology.

When complicated computer programs were written beginning in the 1960s, computer engineers used a two-digit code for the year. The “19” was left out. Instead of a date reading 1970, it read 70. Engineers had shortened dates because data storage in computers was costly and took up a lot of space. As the year 2000 approached, computer programmers realized that computers might not interpret 00 as 2000, but as 1900.

For months leading up to Jan. 1, 2000, reporters, including myself, wrote stories about what we all could expect and the mass chaos that was sure to ensue.

So, what exactly occurred on that magical day?

Absolutely nothing.

So, am I worried about the effects of losing a millisecond on the world clock?

Only about as much as I am about the more quickly spinning Earth increasing my dizziness.

Always remember, don’t believe everything you read on social media.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today