Switching Off Earth’s Gravity for 5 Seconds: What Would Happen?

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Gravity is not just the name of the movie with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. As I’m sure you know, it’s an extremely important force that ensures the safety of life on Earth. Have you ever given any thought to what would happen if there was a switch somewhere on Earth for turning gravity off and on? Imagine that one fine day, Earth decided to just switch it off for a bit of fun? In other words, what would happen if gravity disappeared from Earth, even for as little as 5 seconds?

What is Gravity?

Yes, we know it’s a movie, but apart from that, it’s one of the most fundamental forces in the universe that keeps our feet on the ground and the stars in the sky. A bit more important than a movie, right?

Gravity is the gravitational force that the Earth exerts on everything around it – everything that holds some mass, at least. This includes everything from the tallest skyscrapers to ultra-light insects. If you have mass, then gravity has you in its grasp. Gravity exerts a force (gravitational force) on everything on Earth and pulls it down. In other words, gravity is the force that keeps everything grounded.

When watching movies that take place in outer space, you might feel jealous of those astronauts floating and fooling around in the absence of gravity. In fact, you might even curse gravity for being there, holding you down all the time. However, you might not want that to happen if you fully understood what would happen if gravity ever decides to call it quits.

Gravity’s 5-second Absence

Without gravity, everything becomes weightless. Instantly, nothing would be held in place.

Now, I can guess what you’re thinking; you may be thinking that as soon as gravity disappears, you would start floating and flying over everything – cities, maybe even entire countries. It would be so awesome, right?

If you think that, you’re in for quite a surprise… and not a pleasant one.

Not like this

Not like this

In the absence of gravity, you wouldn’t float around aimlessly, instead, you’d be like tumbleweeds, fast-moving tumbleweeds. This would not only be you; everything would start moving, including buildings, automobiles, houses, trees…everything would start tumbling and rolling madly around the Earth. This is because the Earth would still be spinning, quite rapidly, as it does all the time. Remember, it’s gravity that holds everything in place.

However, this is hardly a big deal, when compared to the other types of destruction that an absence of gravity can cause. You can expect an apocalypse on a global scale, as everything would start to detach from its roots and begin rolling, tumbling and flailing randomly, somewhat like what they show in those epic destruction movies, except much worse.

Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed (Credits:Chris DeRidder/Shutterstock)

Without gravity, Earth’s atmosphere would also disappear. This means that there would be a sudden and drastic change in air pressure, which would mean an immediate and simultaneous rupture of the inner ears of every human being on the planet. Scary stuff!

Oh! There’s one more thing that I forgot. We need oxygen to breathe, and without the atmosphere, there will be no oxygen on Earth. Without that necessary oxygen, life will cease to exist on our beloved planet.

Yes, the absence of gravity would only be 5 seconds and the great show of life would resume after that time, but there wouldn’t be many people left to enjoy the planet. It would mean a complete reboot on Earth!

References

  1. Ask An Astronomer
  2. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
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About the Author:

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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