Our Giant Top

A toy Top There are many things about the earth that we all know about, but do not realize the importance of. All of us are familiar with the fact that the earth spins on its axis once every 24 hours, but the importance of this spin and its rate of motion is something that escapes many of us. Everyone knows that it is the earth's spin that causes day and night. It is fairly obvious that the rate of spin has an effect on our temperatures by being fast enough that temperatures do not go through wild extremes and slow enough that heat can accumulate and produce enough warmth to support plants and animals.

The interesting thing is that the obvious benefit of the earth's rotation on its axis is only one of many that the earth's rotation gives us. Another thing that the earth's rotation gives us is stability. We all know that when you spin a top at a high angular velocity, the top will sit there in a stable position as long as it is spinning. Two things control that stability--one is the mass of the top and the other is how fast it is spinning. Large heavy tops that spin rapidly can stay in a vertical position for a long time. The earth is a top with a large mass compared to man-made tops. In order to keep climates constant, the earth cannot flop over as a top does when it is spun too slowly. The earth cannot be spun too quickly or horrendous winds would develop. The spin rate of the earth has to be exactly what it is to allow stable climates and weather conditions to exist on this planet.

planet and sun Another feature related to the spin of the earth is the coreolis force. If you are sitting on a carrousel which is going around and around counterclockwise (looking down from the top) and if you throw a ball straight across the carrousel to a friend on the opposite side, the ball will appear to curve to the right (go clockwise). You can try this on a child's playground carrousel. This curvature is called the coreolis effect in honor of the scientist who first described it. The coreolis force causes all winds and currents in the northern hemisphere to curve to the right. This controls weather systems and causes things like the Gulf Stream to curve as they do.

In order for wind systems to move fast enough to mix the air properly, the rotation rate of the earth has to move at a very precise rate. If the earth spun too slowly, the gases would not mix and dangerous cells of hot air would develop. If the earth spun too fast, massive hurricanes and tornadoes would cover the face of the earth every day. Jupiter spins nearly three times as fast as the earth does, and massive numbers of tornado and hurricane-like movements can be seen in its atmosphere--one that has been visible now for 100 years or more.

The design of the earth is far more complex than any of us realize. As man learns more and more about the complex systems which allow us to exist on this planet, we have to realize that any explanation that relies on blind mindless chance is less and less likely to be true. This giant top on which we live has chemical, thermodynamic, electrical, magnetic, and dynamic design that allows us to exist. Learning about all God has done is an exciting and challenging opportunity.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens; who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:26).

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