Obesity’s Global Impact

Increase in Body Mass Slows Earth’s Rotation

Does winter seem longer and drearier this year? Does time lie heavy on your hands? In fact, heaviness is exactly the problem, says Gilbert M. Merrick, Dean of Temporal Research at Alaska’s Temporary Research Institute. The real cause of things slowing down is that all of us, or at least all of us on average, weigh a lot more than we used to.

Increase in mass is, of course, not an entirely new phenomenon. As far as scientists and historians can determine, one of the more remarkable features of the human species is that members of that species start their lives small and of rather insignificant mass, and then become larger and more massive as their lives continue. But it is believed by many historians that, until recent generations, this process of increase in mass typically ceased when said individuals had completed adolescence.1 Now, whether because of genetic mutations or because of global warming, this cessation of mass increase seems no longer to occur.2

This new trend, hailed by some as a positive development, lamented by others as deleterious, has far reaching effects—effects that extend beyond the human race and disturb the entire planet. Obesity is, in fact, slowing the rotation of the earth.

Merrick explains how this can occur:

The effect is quite similar to what happens when a figure skater extends his arms while spinning: he slows down. As a figure skater’s mass becomes more distant from the center of his body, his moment of inertia increases and he becomes less spinnable. Thus, while the overall mass of the earth and its inhabitants has not changed, by moving more of that mass into our bodies, we have increased the moment of inertia of the earth system. That, unfortunately, is why the rotation of the earth has been slowing down.

Temporal scientists are attempting to measure this slowing precisely. While more study is needed, the best measurements to date suggest that the change is approximately .0023±.0001 seconds per day, a change of approximately 2.66203703703704 * 10-6 percent. Experts disagree as to what political and social action should be taken to counteract this worrisome trend.

Image based on “True Polar Wandering,” by Victor C. Tsai, public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Henry VIII was a notable exception, probably because he had a relatively high number after his name.
  2. In fact, it is now possible to precisely determine the age of a human individual by weighing, analogous to determining the age of a tree by counting rings.

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