Monday, April 05, 2010

NatGeo: When The Earth Stops Spinning

I apologize in advance for the harsh language in this review, but I cannot help myself.

As I write this, National Geographic is airing a program called Aftermath:When The Earth Stops Spinning. It postulates what would happen if the Earth, over a FIVE YEAR PERIOD, stopped spinning.

This is the most retarded sack of bovine excrement I've ever seen aired on this supposedly "science" channel. The primary supposition hangs over all of the speculation like the sword of Damocles... namely, WHY? What could possibly cause the Earth to slow that rapidly? The show does note that the Earth is gradually slowing down, about two seconds every 100,000 years. It does not mention why. For the curious, the reason is gravitational tidal forces. Our moon slows our rotation, as does, to a lesser extent, gravitational "friction" from the Sun. But this slowing is extremely slight because in the absence of an external force, Newton's laws prevail. An object in motion remains in motion. For the Earth to slow as rapidly as this turd of a program suggests, a positively MASSIVE amount of external force must be applied, and that force must be something other than the pre-existing gravitational fields of the Moon and the Sun. There is exactly NO other explanation whatsoever. So what is that postulated force?

Apparently, magic. That's right: MAGIC.
National Geographic provides NO other explanation.

The ignorant fucktards who wrote this piece of crap literally forgot Newton. They forgot physics. The forgot physiology (real physiology like the actual fact that people above the Arctic Circle routinely survive 6-month-long days, not the made-up crap they're using to suggest that this isn't possible). They forgot that the application of the external force applied to slow the Earth (and I'm talking about a real, scientifically explainable physical force) would be instantly recognizable, and would cause more commotion than combined effects of the rest of their speculation. They forgot everything actually scientific that they ever might have been taught, leaving them with this.... nothing.

The writers are so astoundingly stupid that they cannot even figure out how to desalinate ocean water even when provided with 6 months of uninterrupted sunlight. The failure of the electrical grid has them stumped.

This is not a science program. It is fear-mongering, ignorant, unscientific shit, and it should never have been allowed to air on this channel. I am so incredibly pissed-off at the producers, the network, and even the dumbass announcer who agreed to lend his annoying voice to this crap. There is ONE statement at the end of the program that reveals the program is an exercise in utterly pointless programming:
"It will never happen like this."
No shit. This is followed with:
"But still it reveals the delicate balance that keeps this planet alive."
No. It reveals nothing of the sort. There's nothing "delicate" about magically stopping the rotation of the entire fucking PLANET. It reveals one thing and one thing only: This was written, produced, and aired by a bunch of unmitigated morons of the worst character.

I don't think I'll be watching anything on NatGeo for a long time. They've squandered their yearly supply of credibility.


  1. Personally, I don't really care why. it is indeed about as a magical occurence as other Aftermath shows, including Life After People (okay, so where DID all the people go? Wouldn't it be more interesting to also see the effect nearly 6 billion corpses would have on the near-term environment?)

    What I would like to know, is if the science behind the migrating oceans and atmosphere is even remotely credible.

    Regardless, i agree, this was something of a waste of a program. I would have liked to see it on, say, SyFy's weekend line up (home of notoriously awful movies that are so mind-numbingly bad, they're fun). But on National Geographic... no.

  2. LOL. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I specifically searched the 'net to see if anyone else was sickened by this ridiculous piece of s***.

    The most charitable thing I can say is that it's yet another example of too much bandwidth and not enough decent content.

    Start with one part footage from unrelated nature shows.

    Write script with bizarre, Saturday night Sci Fi Channel plot.

    Mix-in wacky, contrary-to-reality "brave, independent scientists will save the day" conceit.

    Get cheap, starving extras to portray "survivors" (but, not too many--I'm pretty sure there was a youngish, tallish token Black dude in both Kansas and the Pacific "supercontinent" oceanography trawler and there may have been a white female actress in both groups, too).

    Mock-up some computer graphics.

    Check rolodex for (seemingly endless) list of old, Black, baritone, voice-over guys to over-enunciate asinine script, thereby--somehow--lending it credence.

    Shoot, edit, and projectile vomit onto television.


    In "Nat Geo's" defense. . .

    The (show? documentary? joke?) is so bizarre I've actually watched it twice. Both times I missed the first 10 minutes, so I never caught the putative "reason" for the subsequent 50.

    BTW, did anyone else catch in "Kansas" how they were metal detecting the emigrants? Presumably for guns, ala the absurd public schools. I guess in keeping with the "White liberal 'scientists' will save the day" meme, it was supposed to be some sort of "peaceful" hippie-esque commune. Disarming yourself at the precise moment weaponry would determine whether you live or die--no wonder they couldn't desalinate water.

    And when the guy's reading the script about "can't desalinate because no energy whatsoever," the camera shot is straight at this giant blazing sun that's supposed to be up for like 6 months. I mean, my God, that crazy-but-cool Les Stroud can recapture his own purified urine in the middle of the freaking desert.

    And how do these "daring oceanographers" manage to shipwreck their equipment-laden boat right on a beach? Could it be the "politically absurd" young white girl who appeared to be their fearless captain?

    Also, at one point they were collecting garbage off of the (former) ocean floor for "supplies." There was a weathered, painted board from a house (or dock) and a bunch of other urban junk. I was fully expecting to see old Newport packs, Black & Mild butts and Bud Light bottles. I think there was also an old, metal trash can they "salvaged."

    Now how does all this motley junk end up in one spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and largely unaffected by one of the most corrosive environments on the planet?

    I'll shut-up now because I could go on and on. I wouldn't care at all if it had been yet another silly third-rate movie. As terrible as most of those are, they are better than "When the Earth Stops Spinning" aka "When National Geographic Jumped the Shark."

  3. I am watching the program now and getting increasingly frustrated.

    If all the air migrating to the poles makes the equatorial areas uninhabitable, then why aren't polar areas uninhabitable NOW due to all the air sitting at the equator?

    And whatever this magical force is that is slowing the earth, why doesn't this same force act on the inner layers of the earth too? (answer: because the program would be more boring without massive earthquakes)

  4. Ahhhhmmm... This is the month of April. Perhaps this is the National Geographic's April Fools program?

    I have read some quite humorous articles in my electronics magazines that throw physics by the wayside in order to come up with some preposterous solutions to common electronic and radio problems.

    I too was somewhat quizzical about watching such total nonsense on the National Geographic channel on my friend's satellite TV today. But I just now hit upon the April Fools side of it after reading the original review and all of the comments!

  5. Anonymous, if only it WERE just an April Fool's joke. Alas, it is not.

  6. I appreciate and completely agree with your point of view... this NatGeo programme was so disgusting rubbish! This morning I have watched it, and was stunned...because I am a Researcher in Theoretical Physics, as far as I know "angular momentum" must remain conserved... the loss of rotational kinetic energy that makes it slow down is getting transferred to the orbital speed of moon due to tidal effects... but that transfer rate of angular momentum is tooooooo small....!! what the hell NatGeo is talking about!!

    I was disappointed because of the fact that such programmes broadcasted in such a Channel like NatGeo can affect the layman psychologically...!! They should think about this... before giving such a conclusion they must provide us with right logical and physical explanation... !! The slowing down is so slow that we don't need to correct our Calendars... even the leap year due to the "leap seconds" is also not due to this slowing down...!! This is a quasistatic process... and they are prsenting in such a way that the earth has significantly slowed down in 4.5 years... what the hell is this....!! Is there any wy to give feedback to them...? No need to apologize for your language in the article... such an issue should be protested in such an appropriate language!!!

    Atanu Nath
    S N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences,
    Kolkata (earlier Calcutta), India.

  7. I agree this was a piece of garbage; I'm a lawyer not a scientist, and still I knew what they were portraying was idiotic.

    However, I disagree that one of the reasons it's ridiculous is that there's no possible way this could happen. Because that's missing the point of the show (and really, the whole series). Of course there's no possible way this could happen; it's meant to be a thought experiment, a sort of "we know it's impossible, but what would happen if . . . ". Apparently they did a terrible job of describing what would happen, but that doesn't change the fact that they never claimed it might or ever could happen.

    But of course, that means it's science fiction, not something that should have been aired on NatGeo. And it's still a piece of garbage.

  8. Anonymous, the "it can never happen" is a pretty solid reason for calling it ridiculous.

    Thought experiments have a purpose. To dismiss that is to miss the entire point of a thought experiment. Missing the point is something at which this series excels.

    Suppose, for a moment, you don't know whether 'X' can happen. You engage in a thought experiment to determine the consequence of 'X' happening. If your thought experiment results in the violation of one or more very well-established laws of physics, then you've learned something... namely, that X can't happen based on what we know about physics. That's a perfectly valid use of such speculation.

    When, however, you start with something that you know at the outset violates multiple physical laws, and you make no attempt whatsoever to reconcile them, then you're not learning anything: you're simply spinning your wheels and wasting everyone's time.

    The show is a piece of garbage, for every reason listed, no exceptions.

  9. I'm the anonymous from Sept 13, 2010, 9:37.

    I stand by my response. You're prefacing your argument on the fact that the only reason one might conduct a thought experiment is to learn something.

    This was intended to be entertainment. It failed miserably at that, but that's beside the point (this one anyway). That's why I commented that it should have been on the science fiction channel. Most entertainment could qualify as what you call 'wasting everyone's time'.

    Anyway, the whole series reminds me of my high school algebra class(the last math class I ever took - which I suspect, since you seem to know something about physics, is why we have such divergent views on this point). One of the questions in a test was: "If Jessica [a student in the class] was shot out of a canon, what would be her [inset math stuff that I can't remember here]". Now, obviously, Jessica was never going to be shot out of a canon, and since that would probably cause some pretty terrible physical injuries, her trajectory (or whatever) would be the last thing anyone was interested in, and it would be impossible anyway. In order to answer the question, we had to ignore multiple laws of physics to get to a simple, high school level math answer. Because the reality of Jessica actually being shot out of a canon was irrelevant. Because that wasn't the purpose of the thought experiment.

    At least we agree that it's a piece of garbage.

  10. What a great review.

    This pile of shit just made it to Holland (and is airing right now, as I type this). It's just so unreal, it's unreal! What the hell, I just want to slap the 'researcher' who probably asked his 6-year-old nephew what would happen if the Earth stops rotating.
    The 'lets make shit up' factor is just too high.

    They are talking now about the sleep bullshit: CLOSE YOUR CURTAINS YOU RETARD! *sigh*
    Also, the Earth is a squatted ball. Why is it not bouncing back to a round ball, just as the 'forces' move the water to the poles? Does their way of newtons laws not apply to everything? Clearly not.

    Let's just mail NatGeo and say to them they should really not air this crap. It makes them look stupid and fear mongering idiots.
    Why dumb down TV even more.

  11. OMG..i was watching this program durng m postatal period...and seriously, it made me so frustrated and scared that i googled it 'when will the earth stop spinning'...thank god im no the only one who thought that this was a piece of bullshit being aired on nat geo!
    i still cant believe and forget the horrifyng imgages of the program!
    Aisha Murtaza

    Karachi, Pakisan

  12. Anonymous, stand by your statement all you like. You certainly have the right to be wrong, and I will not begrudge you the exercise of that right.

    Out of respect, I won't call you "wrong" without pointing out exactly why:

    1. As a lawyer you surely recognize the value of precisely defining your terms. This program isn't a "thought experiment"; rather, it's idle fantasy. A thought experiment that doesn't teach you something isn't a thought experiment BY DEFINITION. Here in "Dave's Court" I do not allow that term to be muddied down or mis-represented, even innocently or through inattention, lest it be appropriated to no good end by pseudo-scientists and crackpots. EVERY scientific experiment, including thought experiments, has the purpose of testing that which we know of the physical universe through observation. It's an important part of the scientific method that cannot be waved aside.

    2. If the show is intended to be simple entertainment, nobody told the producers. I refer you not only to the fact that it aired on an educational channel, but to the content of the program itself, and in particular the quotes at the end of my review, indicating that the producers themselves thought they were illustrating important scientific points about the "delicate balance" of our planet.

    3. The difference between this program and the example of Jessica being shot out of a cannon is that, of course, it is physically POSSIBLE for Jessica to be shot out of a cannon, with or without injury. There are cannons, built for the circus, which are routinely used for such purpose. Your algebra word problem describes something that CAN happen in principle (and which coincidentally DOES happen in fact), and the calculation of the acrobat's trajectory is an essential and practical problem if you're a circus worker who needs to place the net. Jessica will certainly thank you for paying attention in class.

    On the other hand, this program describes that which blatantly violates multiple laws of physics.

    Again... The Earth CANNOT and WILL NOT stop spinning on its axis over a period of five years without the application of tremendous external force; whereas any reasonably healthy girl named Jessica may through desire and training become a circus acrobat. Thus, the algebra problem illustrates the laws of physics; the National Geographic program violates them.

    Now, this is a fairly long response. I normally would just have let you be long and leave it at that, but in this case I don't want any stray reader to come to the erroneous conclusion that there is even some incidental value to a "scientific" program that discards science in favor of "making shit up". THERE IS NOT.

    However, we still agree that it's garbage, and that's a good thing.

  13. (BTW, for fun...)

  14. Hi Dave,
    I just saw the rogram in Norway.
    And I almost fell out of my chair when they told about the problems with planes landing in the wrong place due too gps problems... I have been out of the airline business for some yers now. but the last time i checked, planes used radio towers and radar for navigating. I believe that GPS will not be implemented as a primary navigational instrument in a long time yet. Did not bother to see the rest of the show...

  15. Just watched it in Norway too. For about 10 minutes. Jeebus, what utter nonsense, just like most of their ridicolous Aftermath programmes.

    National Geographic is going the way of the History Channel if this is the "future" (a ha ha) of their programming...

  16. Your "scientists" don't know everything. This will become obvious soon enough.

  17. It doesn't take a "scientist" to point to idiotic garbage like this turd of a program. THAT is obvious already.

  18. ahaha, I just saw this myself..

    They just said that humans couldn't stand 60 hours of daylight..
    Well I live in Tromsø, which is waaaay north of the artic circle... The sun has basically been up 24/7 for a month and a half already, and I can still sleep at night.

  19. I've Googled Tromsø several times since bovan posted, and I must say that from here it looks like one of the most awesome places on the planet.

  20. Unless I'm missing something, there is another idiotic thing besides the ones already posted. The 6-month days and nights don't make any sense. If the Earth stops spinning, it will always have the same side towards the Sun, the same way we always see the same side of the Moon. So in some places it will always be night, while in other it will always be day. To get 6-month long days/nights you need spin.

    Or, well, I guess it all depends on the reference point, but I find the reference point needed to call the situation presented as "Earth stopped spinning" an unnatural one. In the same vain you could argue that out Moon is spinning.

    I guess this comes from a misunderstanding of how light reaches the poles currently and the common misconception than now a day takes 6 months as soon as you've crossed the Arctic Circle.

    What I really don't understand is why are they still airing this. I wonder if a lot of other things they show are just as crappy but I am too uneducated to tell.

  21. Yes, it deals with the sidereal reference point. What you're talking about happens when a body is "tidal locked" and always presents the same face. It happens because the gravity within an astronomical body isn't uniform, so when it's deep in the gravity well of another body it reaches a state of equilibrium... it "finds its groove" so to speak. From an outside point of view this represents one rotation per revolution, which is a "sidereal" day. Our moon does rotate once per month. It's a "real" rotation: looking at the Earth/Moon from ANY outside vantage point you would see two planets in a tandem orbit, one of which rotates about 28 times faster than the other.

    Now that you bring up sidereal motion, here's an interesting one to ponder. The Moon orbits the Earth, but in doing so it never moves 'backwards' as it accompanies the Earth around the Sun. So from that point of view, the Moon actually orbits the Sun, while the Earth's gravity tugs on it to slow it down (if it's ahead) or speed it up (if it's behind), causing the Moon to shift to a higher or lower orbit. The Moon's path around the Sun is therefore somewhat like a rounded dodecagon (but not quite).

    And yes, Anonymous, the shows in this series that I've seen are uniformly crappy. I stopped watching, so if there's a good one, I haven't seen it.

  22. And I'm sure you all paid to see all the Harry Potter movies and need a fix of Survivor and America Idol every week.

    Sorry if this show taxes your brain and is beyond you intellect to appreciate.

  23. Thank you, Einstein. We appreciate "you opinion".

  24. Hi Dave, glad to see more people are as pissed off as me at the waste of money in making this piece of anti-scientific horseshit disaster porn.
    There's so much wrong with it, there's no point even analysing it, but they didn't even get their graphical explanation of the coriolis effect right!!
    Shame on NatGeo.

    Anon Mar24: Beyond our intellect! Ha! This bullshit was aimed at morons likes you that probably believe the world ends in December. It's supposed to be a moderately scientific channel

  25. I have a question to National Georgaphic about "When Earth stops spinning!. If this program were true, WHEN it will happen? National Georgaphic does not show up WHEN it happens and just say what would happen when earth stops spinning. What about the fake Mayan "Doomsady Day" 21-12-2012 from Mayan predication and big asteroik comes close to earth in May year 2029 and deep impact to Earth in year 2036?

    1. Anonymous, there is no "when". They just made up an impossible "what if" with no causative factor (other than implied magic) and decided to do a show on it. If that sounds stupid to you, then you're smarter than the producers of this show.

      My favorite explanation for the 2012 "Doomsday": They ran out of room on the rock. There's nothing more scary about it than Y2K. And, since I may not get another chance to push it, here's a little song I wrote about the occasion...

      Doomsday predictions are a dime a dozen. We've been through hundreds of doomsdays already. Don't sweat it.

  26. Glad to read all these comments. I was sure this show was stupid shit like the mermaid show, but wanted to be sure.

  27. Ha ha.. Thanks for this. After watching a great show on the Ison comet with my 14 year old, a replay of this came on. By the first ad break I was foaming at the mouth and searching the net. Your review so much improved upon my venting it had my kid laughing out loud. After we stopped laughing we very quickly changed channels.

    Many thanks for an excellent critique!