State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Poetry in Planetary Motion

The Earth, as seen from the Moon on Apollo 8. Photo: NASA

Earth’s days are getting longer. That was one of the key findings from a study published on Monday, authored by scientists from the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The researchers calculated that, 1.4 billion years ago, each day on Earth only lasted around 18.7 hours, and that our current 24-hour day is thanks to our Moon. The great gray satellite is slowly drifting away from our planet, causing the Earth to spin more slowly and literally adding more hours to the day.

To Sam Illingworth, a senior lecturer in science communication at Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K., this orbital dance had a certain poetry to it, which he was inspired to put into verse. Here’s the poem he posted on his blog. It’s entitled “We are Drifting Apart”.

Within the unformed chaos of our past,

You pushed and pulled at creases in our skin;

The time we had was short but built to last,

A close embrace that caused our world to spin.

But layers of rock hide secrets deep within,

And map a future where we drift apart.

The strength of our connections ebb and thin,

So that we have more time than at the start;

But what’s the use of time without your counterpart.

Illingworth, who gave us permission to republish the poem here, said, “I found this research to be both fascinating and also a fabulous example of truly interdisciplinary work. Something to excite, educate, and inspire in equal measure. I hope that my poem captures some of the beauty of the research and that it inspires others to read the science in full, and to further consider the important relationship between our Earth and our Moon.”

Check out Illingworth’s blog, The Poetry of Science, for more planetary poesy, sciencey sonnets, and biological ballads.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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