Losing sleep over the Chilean earthquake

I’m sure everyone, at one point in their lives, has felt that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. I know it sure feels that way to me. If you’re anything like me, your day probably goes something like this: get up, shower, get dressed, go to work, come home, eat dinner, clean up and go to bed to begin all over again the next day. There’s barely any time left to do the things you want to do, like read a book, play with the chinchilla or watch that one TV show that you just can’t miss because you’ll know everyone will be talking about it the next day and you don’t want to be spoiled.

Coming soon: "As the World Turns Faster"

And studies have shown that we don’t get nearly as much sleep at night as we need. I know I don’t. But lately it seems like the night just flies by, and I wake up grumpy because I haven’t gotten the 5-6 hours of sleep that I usually get. My days seem even more crammed full of things that need to get done before I can hit the hay. I thought perhaps I just needed to improve my time management skills. Then I saw a news piece on CNN.com that explains why my days seem to be getting shorter.

Because they are.

The massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile on Saturday caused the earth to shift about three inches on its axis, creating a shorter day. According to scientists who know about such things, our days are now 1.26 microseconds shorter.

No wonder I’ve felt so tired this week.

A microsecond is one-millionth of a second. That may not sound like much, but we already lost 6.8 microseconds in the magnitude 9.1 earthquake that hit Sumatra in 2004. That’s over eight-millionths of a second lost in the last decade. Just think of all the sleep we’ve lost due to earthquakes over the years.

Of course, this all pales in comparison to what the people of Chile are facing, and what the people of Haiti still face eight weeks after another devastating earthquake left so many people homeless. The earthquake in Chile created a tsunami that put many Pacific nations on alert. CNN and other news organizations spent the better part of Saturday in Hawaii, where the tsunami was due to hit around 3 p.m. CST. That was quite possibly one of the most surreal moments of journalism I’ve ever witnessed — a scheduled disaster. While watching the water around Hilo, Hawaii rush in and out of the bay was fascinating, thankfully no one was hurt. I do, however, wish the news anchors covering the tsunami hadn’t sounded quite so excited about the prospect of imminent destruction.

Our planet is amazing. To think that a shift in land mass can cause the day to shorten sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie. But it’s not science fiction, it’s science fact. And a little bit scary. But I’m going to try not to lose sleep over it… well, anymore than I already have.

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