Earth Stops Spinning

From the column: What happens if the earth stops spinning?

Cecil addressed what is probably the intent of the question with regards to the Earth stopping spinning, i.e. a magical instant of suddenly things are not moving any more. How would things be if they weren’t spinning.

The other aspect of the question is what happens to the Earth as it stops spinning. To which the answer is, how does it stop?

If you’re talking a magical instantaneous stop, why nothing.
If you’re talking a physical instantaneous stop within the limits of what we know of physics and motion et al, then it would be a highly catastrophic event. Think huge forces suddenly yanking on everything tangentially to the surface. Would we go flying into space? Probably not, but we’d all probably get to go ballistic and play superman. Everything not solidly tied to the ground would get airborne, and buildings would likely have catastrophic failure and collapse. And then there’s the tsunami.

Of course if the stopping were very gradual, then there wouldn’t be much of an effect at all. In fact, that is happening - the Moon is slowing down the Earth’s rotation. Of course it would take a kazillion years to actually stop the Earth, and probably will be overcome by other factors - like death of the sun, or collision from asteroids, or attacks of flying monkeys.

Second comment:

I think Cecil was making a joke. FYI: Do bathtubs drain counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere?

I’m surprised no one has mentioned “The Man Who Could Work Miracles” by H.G. Welles, in which the title character does exactly that, stop the earth from rotating. When that happens, very powerful winds blow and houses are blown about by the immense storm.

And don’t forget the added benefit of all the “plagues o’ locusts oer’ the land” being flung into space.

I would guess that the crust of the Earth would liquify too.

  Wouldn't work. The maximum rotational speed of the Earth is only around 1000mi/hour (at the equator). That's nowhere near the 25,000mi/hour needed to fling them away. (Orbit will not do--they would go into an orbit whose low point was touching the ground.) Add atmospheric friction and you're even farther from it.

I’d heard that it was lithospheric friction that really messed things up.