Jul
08
2007

The Earth Is Shrinking. Implications? Horrifying.

The Earth as it actually is: Here we see a revised map of the planet earth.    (Image by FuLL MoON on Flickr.com)
The Earth as it actually is: Here we see a revised map of the planet earth. (Image by FuLL MoON on Flickr.com)
Well… Maybe the home planet isn’t shrinking, exactly, but it’s slightly smaller than we used to think. So it’s kind of like it’s shrinking in our heads, which is just as bad, according to The Matrix.

Using a procedure called “Very Long Baseline Interferometry,” or just VBLI, scientists have been able to reevaluate previous estimates on the earth’s exact size. VBLI works by using a network of over 70 radio telescopes around the world to measure radio waves emitted by sources deep in space, like Quasars. Because each telescope is always going to be slightly closer or further away from the source of the radio waves, the signals are received with a slight time lag from telescope to telescope. By measuring that lag, scientists can tell the exact distances from each telescope to the Quasar, and then the distances between two telescopes “to the preciseness of two millimeters per 1,000 kilometers.” Through all this, they have discovered that the Earth is just slightly smaller than we used to think - just a matter of millimeters, though.

But what does a matter of millimeters mean on a global scale? The implications, I think, will startle you. For instance, the state of Rhode Island no longer exists. And Delaware is just a beach now. My bedroom, formerly a palatial 12’ by 13’ 6” is now a claustrophobic 11’ 11” by 13’ 5.9”. I had to throw some books out. It’s a scary world we live in, so dominated by concepts.

The Geodesists who have developed this world-measuring process are hopeful, however, that it will have the potential to make up for its grim introduction. By measuring the Earth’s size so exactly, VLBI will allow us to measure minute changes in sea level and track the progression of global warming, or to follow the exact movement of the tectonic plates (It turns out that the Swiss and us are moving 18 millimeters away from each other every year. I’m not sure how I feel about this.)

The March of VLBI

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

Actually, there is one important implication. One key piece of evidence for global warming is sea level -- if the seas are getting warmer, they expand. That expansion, averaged over the entire globe, is a matter of millimeters. If our measurements are not accurate down to that scale, then we don't have good data on ocean expansion.

And if the Swiss want to leave, then I say to hell with 'em.

posted on Tue, 07/10/2007 - 12:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

averaged over the enire globe may only be a few millimeters if that is true, however significant sea level rises are predicted to be in more isolated spots. for example in greenland, sea levels are expected to rise multiple feet. the united states is expected to have coastlines progressing inland in the next fifty years. the vast majority of scientific journal articles have reached a concensus that global warming is a serious problem, and the only opposing articles are given attention because the disagree.

posted on Wed, 07/11/2007 - 9:40am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

This post discusses the shaky math behind many predictions of catastrophe.

posted on Wed, 07/11/2007 - 9:39pm

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