Here is the spinning globe atop the University of São Paulo’s international webpage. Tut, tut, tut:
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s the wrong direction of rotation! Why, if the Earth rotated in that direction, we’d all be killed!” Or something.
Well, as well as messing up time zones so that it would be morning in the US before it is in Europe, it would certainly confuse meteorologists:
Storms spin anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the south. Reverse the rotation of the Earth and you put the storms into reverse too. Interesting, but apart from confused weather forecasters I couldn’t imagine a huge impact
That was Peter Gibbs, a BBC weather forecaster, trying to figure all this out for us a couple of years ago. However, that was just his starting position. When he thought it through, he realised that more would happen:
What about the jet stream? This river of high altitude, fast-moving air steers the mid-latitude depressions across the planet from west to east. Swirling masses of cloud and rain are pushed from Japan to the Pacific coast of America, and from Newfoundland to Cornwall. Reverse the flow and climate changes dramatically.
The trade winds, another crucial part of our planet’s circulation system…affect the distribution of rainfall across large parts of the planet, influencing the position of some deserts and rainforests and interacting with periodic events like El Nino. It’s reasonable to assume that a reversal would alter the pattern of habitable land.
So major changes to the weather, then. Of course, all this was just a thought experiment. To get the world spinning from east-to-west (as the University of São Paulo would have it), rather than from west-to-east, would first require us to slow its current rotation down to a complete stop, before getting it to turn the other way.
A bit like how Superman turned back time back in 1978 (but only in a movie, thankfully).
Now if the Earth’s liquid iron core became stationary, it would denigrate the planet’s magnetic field. And this is what shields us from the otherwise deadly radiation of the sun. In addition: floods, earthquakes, gravity, end of civilisation, etc.
In other words, then we’d certainly all be killed.
But good news. It turns out that the University of São Paulo have two international webpages. The wonky Earth features only its English-language site. Its Portuguese site has everything as it should be:
Now I’m not sure what all this means.
But I’m sure it definitely means something...
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.