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Time Goes Fast, but It Seems Even Faster

Ila Bonczek
Ila lives in the Garden State with her family and four chickens. She has been growing produce and perennials for 20 years, and recommends gardening for food and fun, but not for fortune.
Published: May 14, 2021
Multiple exposure photo of meteors from Sad Hill, Contreras, Spain. The Earth is spinning faster, and its “heartbeat” is also increasing its rate. This is causing time to speed up in ways that are both perceived and measurable. (Image: Samuel de Roman / Getty Images)

Accelerating Earth rotation is a hot topic lately, as studies have indicated that our planet has started spinning faster. A difference was discovered by scientists in the 1960s between the time kept by the atomic clock, and the variable rate at which the Earth completes its daily rotation.

Due to combined factors involving the earth’s molten core, oceans, atmosphere, and the moon, the earth’s rotation varies ever so slightly.  

This discrepancy led to the “leap second,” starting in 1972. In order to help the Earth catch up with the super accurate atomic clock, a leap second was added, as needed, on either Dec. 31 or June 30 of any given year.  For many years, this practice was steadily applied every 12 to 18 months. In recent times, the application of leap seconds has expanded to years, with the last  being added on December 31, 2016. A recent announcement, which showed there will again be no leap second this June, brought speculation that we may eventually need to start subtracting seconds in order for time measured by the earth’s rotation to stay in sync with the atomic clock. 

While this miniscule amount of time seems insignificant and its implications underwhelming, the difference does have an impact on navigational and satellite communication systems, which rely on highly accurate time being consistent with the conventional positions of the celestial bodies. When a leap second was added on June 30, 2012, several internet platforms crashed and problems arose with operating systems written in the programming language Java. 

In order to prevent the inconveniences caused by this inconsistency, some countries have proposed eliminating the leap second altogether, and relying on atomic time only. The UK is against such a move, however, as it would sever ties to traditional solar time. The fate of the leap second will be determined in 2023. 

Due to a phenomenon called the Schumann resonance, time seems to pass more quickly, although it is difficult to measure. (Image: samer daboul via Pexels)

The Schumann Resonance

A second phenomenon is affecting time in a way that can be felt much more than measured.  Schumann Resonances are frequencies produced by electromagnetic waves resulting from regular thunderstorms and lightning. According to NASA, at any given moment, the Earth is experiencing approximately 2000 thunderstorms, yielding an average of 50 lighting strikes per second. The planet is thus engulfed in low frequency electromagnetic waves, or “Schumann Resonances.”  

These frequencies resonate in the ionosphere, a part of the earth’s upper atmosphere that is ionized due to solar radiation separating charged ions from neutral gas atoms. As explained by Interesting Engineering, this ionization allows the ionosphere to capture these electromagnetic waves. The Schumann resonances may affect not only the changes in the seasons, solar activity, and activity in Earth’s magnetic environment, but also human and animal behavior and thinking.   

The frequencies can range from 7.83 Hz to 33.8 Hz, but for thousands of years the Earth’s electromagnetic field had a consistent frequency pulsation, or “heartbeat,” of approximately 7.8 cycles per second. The Earth’s heartbeat began speeding up in 1980, however, and has continued to do so. Due to this increasing pulse rate, we feel that time is speeding up; 24 hours now is perceived as only 16 hours. This perception is difficult to measure, however.

A member of the Physics Forum ponders, “The universe is expanding; interstellar distances are becoming greater and greater. How does the relationship between space, time, and the speed of light compensate for this? Changes in interstellar distances are measurable. The speed of light is constant and is measurable. But what about Time itself, can changes to time be measured? Or is that a paradox within itself? How can we measure a potential change in Time itself if it is changing while we are trying to measure it?”

“For example, hypothetically speaking, if you are trying to measure how much a yard stick is decreasing in length against a second yard stick that is also decreasing in length at the same rate as the first one and if everything else around you (including yourself) was shrinking at the same rate than you would never confirm that such a change actually did occur.”

Accordingly, our clocks still register time in seconds and minutes over a period of a 24 hour day, while an increase in Schumann resonance frequency apparently causes us to perceive time as being only two thirds as long.

Some scientists believe that when the pulse reaches 13 cycles per second, the Earth will actually stop rotating. It could then remain still for three days before reversing its rotation. What would happen then is impossible to predict, so we would all do well to seize the day; and as the great philosopher Socrates once said, “We cannot live better than in seeking to become better.”