Scientists at NASA are reporting that the 8.8 magnitude Chilean earthquake the other day has shifted the Earth’s axis and actually made the days just a wee bit shorter. So if you were late to work today maybe you can us that as an excuse.

Apparently each day will now be 1.26 microseconds shorter, according to preliminary calculations. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second. If I’ve done my math correctly…and I’m not sure I have…in your lifetime that equates to about .034 of a second. I’ve really got to get off these interents and start living it up. Time is falling away left and right here.

See what happens is a large quake shifts massive amounts of rock and changes the distribution of mass on the planet. When that happens the speed at which the earth spins is altered just slightly.

“Any worldly event that involves the movement of mass affects the Earth’s rotation,” Benjamin Fong Chao, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said. Scientists liken it to an ice skater pulling in their arms to spin faster.

Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used a computer model to determine that the quake should have moved the Earth’s figure axis about 3 inches.

The 9.1 magnitude Indian earthquake (the tsunami one) in 2004 also caused the days to be shortened. That one actually lost us 6.8 microseconds per day. It’s not all bad though…seems it can occur that the days length can increase too. If the Three Gorges reservoir in China were filled, it would hold 10 trillion gallons of water. The shift of mass would lengthen days by about 0.06 microsecond. So if you’re worried about the lost time maybe you ought to head over there and get to work with a pail.


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