As people get fatter, the planet gets slimmer

NASA/Getty Images Using an array of sensitive, sophisticated techniques, scientists have discovered that our rotund planet Earth is a bit smaller than previously thought: a whole 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) smaller from surface to center on average. Some of the other updated measurements the scientists made after two years of measuring include: Continental drift. North America ...

600653_070711_earth_05.jpg
600653_070711_earth_05.jpg

NASA/Getty Images

Using an array of sensitive, sophisticated techniques, scientists have discovered that our rotund planet Earth is a bit smaller than previously thought: a whole 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) smaller from surface to center on average.

Some of the other updated measurements the scientists made after two years of measuring include:

NASA/Getty Images

Using an array of sensitive, sophisticated techniques, scientists have discovered that our rotund planet Earth is a bit smaller than previously thought: a whole 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) smaller from surface to center on average.

Some of the other updated measurements the scientists made after two years of measuring include:

  • Continental drift. North America and Europe are parting ways at 0.7 inches (18 mm) a year.
  • Post-glacial rebound. Scandinavia and northern Canada are increasing in height by 0.2 to 0.3 inches (5 to 8 mm) each year. Their elevation is increasing because they’ve had an enormous weight of ice lifted off them since the end of the last ice age.
  • The frisky Pacific. The Pacific seabed is the most active of all, heading northwest at a whopping 2 inches (5 cm) per year.

So what? Well, the more accurate measurements give scientists a better baseline against which to measure and track environmental changes such as melting ice caps and evaporation from the Amazon Basin. If the sea level is rising somewhere, it’s important to know whether that change is due to a sinking continent, or due to, say, global warming. Regardless of the important implications of the new measurements, we at least now know for sure that it’s a smaller world after all.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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