Episode 22: Proof We Are Not Experiencing a Pole Shift, Part 2
Recap: Find out why there is no physical mechanism proposed by 2012ers that could cause a geographic pole shift, and also how to tell whether or not we have gone through one recently or are going through one now.
Solution to Episode 21's Puzzler: See the transcript.
- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
Topic 1: How a Pole Can Flip
Claim: Last week I discussed the majority of the claimed scientific evidence from one of the main advocates - at least one of the main ones who presents a cogent story - of the geographic pole flip, where Earth's spin axis actually moves. We're going to continue that this week with what could really do this, as opposed to what the doomsday people claim.
Method 1: Entire Planet Flips
There are two different proposed scenarios, first-off. The first is that the entire planet moves. As in the center of the planet is a core, then there's a mantle, and then a thin crust. Some people claim that this entire thing will rotate. Proposed mechanisms are a magical Planet X or brown dwarf star, gravity waves, dark rifts, beams of energy shot through the sun during an alignment that won't actually happen, and I'm sure loads of other things.
The problem with all of these is that none of them would actually do what they claim.
If I want to just move something, I can do it by pushing or pulling it. The force in physics that's the equivalent of pulling in this case would be gravity. So it IS true that IF there were a Planet X or star or whatever that was going to swing really really close to Earth, then its gravity could affect the planet and move us towards it a bit. And I stress "a bit."
But that's all it would do - move us. It wouldn't rotate us much at all. And yes, there is a tiny footnote there where there could be a very slight rotation due to tidal forces, but it's minuscule to the point that it's really not worth mentioning. Remind me to take it out in editing.
So gravity will pull an object, all of an object. In order to actually get a rotation, then you have to apply a torque. You have to pull or push on one part of the object while NOT doing so on the other. When I talk about this in front of people I usually have a water bottle in front of me. Gravity would be like me grabbing ahold of the bottle and pulling it towards me. But a torque would be me pushing on, say, just the top or the bottom or the side, and hence rotating it.
Problem is that you don't get that by Planet X swinging by, a supposed dark rift, a gravity wave, or any of this other stuff.
A tractor beam could do it. So if the beings on Planet X that have somehow managed to cloak their entire planet from being detected by light and not affecting anything by gravity also happen to have a tractor beam on it that could pull or push on just a small part of Earth's crust, that'd do it. But I haven't seen any of the 2012ers claim that.
For completeness sake and so that I don't get angry e-mails from physicists or astronomers or avid amateurs, as I mentioned earlier, you CAN get a bit of torque due to tidal forces from a passing object because Earth is not completely spherical. BUT, the amount is miniscule.
An alternative way that a Planet X or space debris that's just supposedly hanging out in the "dark rift" that doesn't exist could apply a torque to the planet is if it smashed into us. Going back to the water bottle analogy, it'd be like throwing a rock at the side of the water bottle so as to cause it to rotate just a teensy bit.
The problem with this scenario is the relative masses involved. Every body in the solar system has been hit by space debris. Earth gets hit every day by tons of material - literally. But, Earth weighs in at about 6*10^24 kg. Even the dinosaur-killing asteroid event that left the ~180-km-diameter Chicxulub impact crater was roughly 0.00001% the mass of Earth. Going back to the water bottle analogy yet again, using just a plastic half-liter bottle, then we're talking about hitting it with the amount of recommended iodine for US adults, 1/20th of a mosquito, or two eyebrow hairs. To create a dinosaur killing event on the water bottle.
I hope it's needless to say at this point that if we were going to get hit by anything like that, first, it still wouldn't create a big enough torque to cause a pole shift, and second, if something big enough were to hit that WOULD, we'd have bigger things to worry about.
Method 2: Crust Rotates
With all that said, I want to very quickly address an alternative pole shift idea, that of not just the entire planet rotating, but just the crust overtop the mantle. Problem is this has the same problems as rotating the whole planet. The proposed mechanisms by 2012 doomsday people are bogus - they wouldn't do it. Sorry.
Topic 2: Ways to Prove We Are NOT in a Pole Shift Now
Claim: I mentioned last week that there are some people who think we hare already undergone a pole shift and "The Powers that Be" or "Men in Black" who don't allow women in their ranks have kept all this from us stupids. But, the smarties on the conspiracy websites have managed to figure out the lie and are desperately trying to tell us in horribly designed websites with flashy images and magenta-on-black text that's impossible to read.
The scenario last time was: How would we know if Earth has already experienced a geographic pole shift if you assume that the doom and gloom scenarios wouldn't happen? How could you tell?
Congratulations to Charles in San Diego for being the first to supply an answer via e-mail. His solution is: "If the earth had been somehow knocked into a different spin relative to the sun, then the existing polar ice would have melted, and new polar icecaps would have formed in the new 'up-down' orientation. There would be physical evidence of this (ocean salinity dropping dramatically, perhaps). Furthermore, the origin of our existing icecaps would be datable (thru core-analysis) to a time period in which an identifiable pair of alternative icecaps melted."
This is actually an interesting one that I like, except that it would require a somewhat longer time to take effect. As in, if the geographic pole shift happened last year, this wouldn't really be a good method. 100 years ago, sure. But, it's one that will work so I'm giving the ribbon for this episode to Charles.
Chew from the SGU message boards' solution is, in part: "if the poles shifted (I'm assuming 180°) the stars would be out of whack (i.e. Polaris would be above the south pole, constellations and lunar features would appear inverted)."
Chew mentioned my second-favorite method, and that really just boils down to all of the stars would be in different locations. If you can see the North Pole Star from your location on Earth now, and it is at the North Celestial Pole (well, actually, about 3/4° off of it), then we have not undergone a pole shift.
Leonard also supplied a solution, which is the same as Chew's but put much more succinctly: "For geographic pole shift, the sun and stars would rise and fall in new locations. This would be impossible to hide."
My methods are several, but they all have to do with where stuff is in the sky. After all, the definition of Earth's rotation axis pointing is based on where it's pointed in the sky.
My first object of choice is the sun. It's big, bright, easy to see, all that good stuff.
If we had undergone a geographic pole shift, then basically the sun would no longer rise and set in the same location it had before on what were key days, such as solstices and equinoxes. And the highest and lowest points would be different on the solstices for your hemisphere.
This method is a bit tricky because the sun does move in terms of where it rises and sets throughout the year, but that's a topic for a future episode.
My second object - or group of objects - of choice are stars for reasons that Chew and Leonard mentioned. I don't think anything else needs to be said about that.
My third is more subtle, and that's the tropics and how long day and night is. Granted, the effects aren't subtle, but the geometry is.
The Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer are at ±23.5° on Earth, and are defined as where the sun is directly overhead on one of the solstices. If Earth's 23.5° tilt were less, then the Tropics would be closer to the equator. If they were more, the Tropics would be further away.
Similarly, the Arctic and Antarctic circles are at 90°-23.5° (±66.5°) and, above these, the sun will never rise around the winter solstice and never set around the summer solstice.
What this means is that if we had already undergone a pole shift, then people near the tropics and arctic circle would notice. For example, there is at least one website out there that claims we've shifted by another 20° such that our axial tilt is 43.5°. That would mean that about a month ago, during January, Australia would not have seen the sun set, and Canada would not have seen it rise.
My fourth method that I like is more vague, and that's simply the seasons would be more or less severe due to the changed tilt. If our tilt increased, then seasons would be more severe. If it decreased, then they would be less severe.
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5:19am on Monday, March 5th, 2012
Between the OP and the comments I'm hwemosat confused. As I understand it the magnetic poles, not to be confused with the axis of rotation of the earth, have changed many times with no physical consequences. The magnetosphere stops radiation from getting to us as well as being a guidance system for some migratory animals. It is a magnetic field generated by the hydro-magnetic flow of liquid iron around the solid core of the earth. This is not gravity. Gravity is the inherent property of mass to attract other mass to it. Gravity affects plate tectonics, not magnetic fields. Movement of the magnetic poles is significantly aggravating but not apocalyptic. I think people get the axis of rotation confused with the magnetic poles and obviously some rapid angular change of the axis could be hwemosat disconcerting. There is, however, no geological evidential precedent that has been discovered to date, that would indicate that this has ever happened on our planet. An analogy I rea... read more »