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Why Don’t We Feel the Earth Spinning?

We all might have heard how fast the earth rotates on its axis. There are numerous articles, and studies out there that could give you the exact time it takes, but on a high-level, it’s roughly 24 hours. We also know that at the equator, the earth rotates the fastest, with a gradually decreasing speed as and when you go towards the poles. In fact, the equator’s speed is roughly about 1,040 miles per hour (very fast!). So, why don’t we feel the earth spinning?

Reason 1: Everything Else Is Moving With It

Think about it. Technically, we’re inside the earth. So whatever speed the earth is moving at, we’re moving at the exact same speed. Confused? Think about driving your car. If you’re driving your car at 65 MPH, that means you’re also moving at the same speed. Plus, gravity helps us stay put. Now if Earth were to apply brakes, so to speak, or collide with an object, whereby it’s speed is affected, we would feel that (just like applying brakes in your car.)

It just so happens that this hasn’t occurred yet. Technically, the earth is slowing down “two-thousandths of a second every day.” But that slowness is so insignificant, that we don’t feel that.

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Reason 2: We Don’t Have a Sense of Pure Raw Speed

What I mean by that is actually very simple. The only way we know or get a sense of how fast or slow an object is (outside of ourselves, like physically running), is due to relative-ness of the surroundings, and our other sense of hearing, seeing, and feeling. Let me give you some examples.

  1. The reason we know that a train is moving at X speed is because us sitting inside of the train can hear sounds of the machine/engine, tracks, and see other objects outside of the train moving past us.
  2. Similarly, say you’re standing on a street. And you see a car passing by. At the moment, you’d know that the car is moving at a Y speed.
  3. Or you feel the wind on your face. You’d know that the wind is moving at a specific speed.

If all of that is taken away, you wouldn’t know. For example, say you’re traveling in your car at 65 MPH with the following conditions:

  • You cannot see anything outside. Completely blinded out.
  • You’re deaf. Can’t hear anything at all.
  • Assume that your suspensions, tires, etc. are so great that you can’t feel the road at all.
  • All the visuals in your car that indicate a car are moving is not there. Or simply, put, say you’re entirely blind too.
  • There is no wind in the car whatsoever.

In this very unrealistic hypothetical scenario, you would probably not know how fast you’re moving. In fact, it may just feel like you’re staying put in one place.

And there you go! Next time someone asks, why don’t we feel the earth spinning, you’d know what to say! And before we pull the curtain, let’s discuss three other common phenomenons.

Do Clouds Move or Is It the Earth Spinning?

As covered before, technically, everything inside the earth is moving at the same speed (at whatever location they are). However, there can be other factors that can change those things for objects inside of the earth (such as us driving our cars.). So to answer the question, yes, clouds move with the earth, but other factors such as wind patterns, friction with the atmosphere, pressure systems, etc. affect how clouds move.

How to Feel Earth’s Rotation?

Simply put, you cannot. What you can is the acceleration of things inside it; again, us driving cars. In theory, you probably could if something drastic were to occur, such as Earth colliding with an object and its speed slowing down by 400 MPH. Outside of what other calamities it may bring, you’d certainly feel the change in speed.

Why Does the Earth Rotate From West to East?

This is more of an arbitrary thing than anything. A spin is a spin. But we ended up defining directions. To take a step back, when Earth was formed, it started spinning a specific way (and from what I know has been doing so ever since). Next, we defined directions. North, East, South, and West.
We could have very well defined south as the top, and north as the bottom. In that scenario, the situation would be reversed. So, something to keep in mind. In any event though, that’s how we understand the Earth’s rotational direction. And that’s the reason we say the sun rises in the east.

References & Other Resources

  1. ScienceAlert
  2. Quora