DID YOU KNOW that the earth is starting to spin more slowly, and that sailboats might be at least partly to blame?
I was first made aware of this fact by a letter from a reader, who said:
I read in the paper that scientists are worried because the earth's spinning rate is slowing down. Days and nights are getting longer. But that's not the major concern. The big problem is that the earth is spinning like a top, and as it slows down it will start to wobble. The poles will tilt nearer the sun in their arcs, and all the ice will melt.
The seas will rise and become diluted with fresh water. Lots of land will be inundated and no longer habitable for humans. Lots of marine plant life and mammals will die out completely. In short, it will be a disaster.
Now it occurs to me as I lie here staring at the ceiling that is it perfectly normal that the earth's spinning should slow down as it gradually loses the energy that started it spinning in the first place. But, as usual, Nature has been compensating. Gravity has been moving the high spots of the earth down to the low spots of the earth ever since the Big Bang. So the radius of the earth from mountain tops on one side to mountain tops on the other side has been shrinking. Thus, as a ballerina spins faster when she pulls her arms to her sides, the earth has gradually tried to spin faster to make up for the slowing down caused by waning energy. And so the rate of spinning has remained more or less equal in all the earth's life.
But now, quite suddenly in cosmic terms, the earth is slowing. And I believe I know why. Let me explain. As you know, the earth spins from east to west. As it spins, the surface of the earth encounters resistance from the atmosphere. Once again, over the eons, this resistance has been lessened by gravity's habit of smoothing out mountain tops and generally sanding things down nice and smooth.
But in recent years this resistance has increased because of windmills and yachts.
Never before in the history of the earth have there been so many manmade things sticking up from the surface of the earth, all of them designed deliberately to encounter the atmosphere with force. Never before have so many wind farms and private sailboats offered resistance to the atmosphere. The surface of the earth is now fatally roughened by these foreign protrusions
which, in extracting energy from the atmospheric winds, also serve to retard the earth in its spinning.
If we are to save our dear earth for future generations, it is obvious that both windmills and sailboats must be banned.
Oh yes, I can imagine the chorus of protests from rich yachtsmen who don't give a damn for the rest of us as long as they can pursue their sybaritic pastimes without restriction, but we are talking survival here. I have already contacted my senator regarding having yachting made illegal in my state and I expect other states to follow suit once my discovery is made general knowledge. The future of the human race depends on it.
Yours in great apprehension etc.
Washington Sate penitentiary.
The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.
— Carl Jung.
"My neighbor kept banging on my door at 2:30 this morning, can you believe that?"
"Wow, 2:30 a.m.?"
"Yeah, luckily for him I was still up playing my bagpipes."
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for another Mainly about Boats column.)