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On February 5, 2023 I will celebrate my 70th birthday. Yay! As I do every year during this birthday month, I run a campaign to raise money to support my work here at Behind The Black. I do not run ads. My only support comes from my readers, which leaves me utterly free to speak my mind openly about space, culture, and politics. Please consider supporting me in this work by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


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Rotation of Earth’s inner core oscillates back and forth over time compared to surface

The uncertainty of science: New data now suggests that the Earth’s inner core is no longer rotating faster than the planet’s outer layers — as had been measured in 1996 — but is now actually rotating slower.

Research published in 1996 was the first to propose the inner core rotates faster than the rest of the planet — also known as super-rotation — at roughly 1 degree per year. Subsequent findings from Vidale reinforced the idea that the inner core super-rotates, albeit at a slower rate.

Utilizing data from the Large Aperture Seismic Array, a U.S. Air Force facility in Montana, researcher Wei Wang and Vidale found the inner core rotated slower than previously predicted, approximately 0.1 degrees per year. The study analyzed waves generated from Soviet underground nuclear bomb tests from 1971-74 in the Arctic archipelago Novaya Zemlya using a novel beamforming technique developed by Vidale.

The new findings emerged when Wang and Vidale applied the same methodology to a pair of earlier atomic tests beneath Amchitka Island at the tip of the Alaskan archipelago — Milrow in 1969 and Cannikin in 1971. Measuring the compressional waves resulting from the nuclear explosions, they discovered the inner core had reversed direction, sub-rotating at least a tenth of a degree per year.

This latest study marked the first time the well-known six-year oscillation had been indicated through direct seismological observation.

What the data really suggests is that the core’s rotation is somewhat independent of the upper layers, so that each can vary relative to each other. This difference must carry with it some profound consequences, related to the length of the day, earthquakes, plate tectonics, and any number of other seismic phenomenon, but at the moment too little is known to tie everything together.

A bit of trivial for my readers: In 2004 I wrote an article for Natural History describing the discovery that the core rotated faster than the Earth’s upper layers. It was that article that prompted John Batchelor to invite me to appear on his show for the first time. The rest is history.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Jay

    I never knew about these tests in Alaska. I will have read up on them.

    Funny, I remember some old Godzilla movies that made references to tests in Alaska.

  • Chris

    My question is what is the resultant effect on the magnetic field?

  • sippin_bourbon

    Wonder if and how this is tied to the polarity flip every 200-300thousand years.

  • Glenn McLaughlin

    Many of us are fans of your conversations with John Bachelor. There is something about your spoken word. I went looking for your old chestnuts at The oldest working link I found on March 17, 2021 is not that old,

    And I searched the interwebs for your 2004 Natural History magazine article about inner core super-roatation, Deep Impressions The Core of the Earth, which you say kicked off your relationship with John Batchelor in 2004. Instead I’ll have to check the library.

    People say knowledge is increasing exponentially, but what of our rate of forgetting? You two are such prolific creators already, you can’t spend all your resources archiving.. So we’re in the here and now, and looking forward to another way to measure the slowing super rotation of Earth’s solid core.

  • Glenn McLaughlin: Yup, sadly Batchelor’s old shows when he was on WABC radio are gone. Oh well.

  • Daniel Kaczynski

    It was by listening to the John Batchelor show that I found out about Behind the Black and
    I’ve been coming here ever since. I am always pleased when John Batchelor ( who also seems
    to be a space science enthusiast ) has you on his show, Mr. Z. I am guaranteed an intelligent
    discussion that will be well worth my listening time.
    It is curious how talk radio still has at least some useful programming. When my mother passed
    away in 2007 we closed down my parent’s house and, of course, turned off the television. I have
    not watched “television” since 2007. Sometimes I see bits of CNN ( Communist News Network )
    on the big screen plasma TV in the cafeteria at work. GAWD, what a mess.
    Thank God for talk radio and the internet.

  • Chris

    Thanks for the article Jeff

    My concern is not so much about a flip in the magnetic field but a strong reduction. The article speaks to a ~10% reduction in the past 180 years. (Not sure how they got that type of resolution in magnetic strength measurements 100+ years ago) My understanding is that if the magnetic field reduces severely our atmosphere is in peril.

  • Jim Schmidt

    I thought everyone knew the earth flipped 90 degrees every 6000/12000 years?

    (For entertainment purposes only)

  • wayne

    Glenn / Mr. Z.,

    I am saddened to discover JB’s extensive radio archive, went poof!

    He does however have about 600 (audio) files uploaded to his Youtube page, which does include some Hotel Mars and Zimmerman segments, but only goes back 6 years.
    The view counts are ultra-low, they must not have devoted a lot of time or effort to that page (I assume, because ya’ know, he had an extensive audio archive at WABC…)

  • Edward

    The first question I would ask is: where are the angular momentum and kinetic energy going?

    The answer is in the article:
    The scientists say their model of inner core movement also explains the variation in the length of day, which has been shown to oscillate persistently for the past several decades.

    The change in rotation rate of the inner core seems to be reflected in a change in rotation of the outer crust. The whole system seems to be very interesting. It would be nice to see how the model explains the transfer of the rotational momentum and energy between the inner core and the crust.

    The more we learn, the curiouser we become.

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