CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Community News Network

April 22, 2013

Slate: 15 facts about our planet

It's easy to take Earth for granted, since we see it every day. It becomes — it is — part of life's background.

But when you see the world through the eyes of science, nothing is mundane. We live on the surface of this great giant space-borne water-laden spinning rock, separated from the rest of the Universe beneath a thin veil of nitrogen and oxygen molecules. Even though you're immersed in its influence, what do you really know about the Earth?

Here are some facts about our planet for you to ponder.

1. There are a lot of different ways to measure how long it takes the Earth to go around the Sun, but if you say it takes pi x 10 million seconds, you'll only be off by a half a percent.

2. The Earth has a volume of about one trillion cubic kilometers. Can you picture a cube 1000 meters high, 1000 meters deep, 1000 meters across? Now picture a trillion of them. That's the Earth.

Actually, if you were that big, it would be easy.

3. The Earth has a mass of 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms, or, if you prefer, 6 sextillion tons. In pounds, that's actually . . . 0. Nothing. Mass is a measure of how much stuff an object contains, but weight is how hard gravity pulls on that mass. The Earth is in space, orbiting the Sun, so it's in freefall. It has mass, but no weight at all.

4. The Earth isn't a perfect sphere. It spins, so it's a flattened at the poles a little bit. The diameter through the poles is 12,713.6 kilometers (7882.4 miles), but it's 12,756.2 kilometers (7908.8 miles) through the equator. That difference of 43 kilometers is only about 0.3 percent, though, so really we're pretty close to a perfect sphere.

5. Not only is it flattened, but the gravitational forces of the sun and moon (what we call tides) distort its shape even more, pulling bulges out from it. The Earth is lumpy! Out in the deep ocean, the bulge of water due to the sun and moon can have an amplitude (change in height from minimum to maximum) of about a meter (40 inches). The solid Earth deforms due to the tides, too, with an amplitude of roughly 50 centimeters (20 inches). Even the air is affected by tides; though there are several factors that greatly complicate it (like expansion due to heating from the sun during the day, and, simply, weather).

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014