The Earth’s Core Stops Spinning (Movie vs Science)

The Earth’s Core Stops Spinning (Movie vs Science)

You may have missed the recent science news that the Earth’s core is slowing down and may stop spinning. What could go wrong if the Earth’s core stops spinning?

The electromagnetic field around the Earth would collapse and all life burns to a crisp by solar radiation. If that sounds like a bad science fiction movie, “The Core” with Aaron Eckhart and Hillary Swank came out in 2003.

How does a 20-year-old science fiction movie stack up against today’s science news?

The Movie

“The Core” begins with a series of unexplainable events. People with pacemakers suddenly drop dead in Boston. Pigeons crashing into buildings, vehicles, and windows in London. The space shuttle goes off course to crash land in the Los Angeles channel.

The space shuttle landing was my favorite scene from the movie.

Major “Beck” Childs, played by Hillary Swank, pulls out a map to figure out the new landing coordinates. Never mind that the “flying brick” has limited maneuverability when falling out of the sky to land.

If you want to see a movie with plot holes big enough to fly a decommissioned space shuttle through, check out my review of “Moonfall.”

Dr. Josh Keyes, played by Aaron Eckhart, figures out what is wrong with the Earth’s core. He gives his research to the White House science adviser and gets invited to the Pentagon for a briefing.

A motley crew of scientists, astronauts, and a hacker builds an “earthship” to save the planet.

How was it that all these people and the materials were available for this emergency crash project? The Pentagon created a secret weapon to generate earthquakes at a distance. The first test firing of that weapon triggered the Earth’s outer core to stop spinning.

We take a journey to the center of the Earth to restart the core with nuclear bombs.

The Science

Research suggests that the Earth’s solid inner core may have stopped spinning and could spin backwards. The inner core spins independently of the liquid outer core and the planetary rotation.

The core spins one way for a while, stopping, and spins the other way for a while. A complete rotation takes 70 years. The last rotation change took place in the 1970s and the next rotation change will be in the mid-2040s.

Some media outlets ran headlines that skipped the “inner” part of the Earth’s core. For example, “The Earth’s core stops spinning!” Some people may translate that as, “We’re all gonna to die!” Those kinds of headlines will get clicks.

For the non-scientist reading those articles, there’s not a whole lot of there there. Few people will bother to click on the link to the research report. Fewer people will pay ten bucks to rent the report for 48 hours and read beyond the first page.

Unless you’re a geophysicist, it’s all gobbledygook anyway.

Movie VS Science

The science in “The Core” was accurate at the beginning, inaccurate in the middle, and theoretical at the end.

“The Core” opens strongly with the science about the Earth’s core.

  • Beginning with the electromagnetic field tying together all the unexplainable events.
  • How scientists use soundwaves through solid rock to determine its structure.
  • The physical description of the crust, the mantle, the outer core, and the inner core.

The science goes out the window when the apple is burnt to crisp with an air freshener flamethrower. Would the Earth burn to a crisp if the outer core stops spinning and the electromagnetic field collapses? No, it wouldn’t. The atmosphere—not the electromagnetic field—protects the Earth from solar radiation.

As for secret weapons that generates an earthquake, tectonic weapons are theoretical and fictional. Such weapons would use the Earth’s electromagnetic field to create earthquakes at a distance. The Soviet Union reportedly had two weapon programs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those programs never produced a weapon. Tectonic weapons are more likely to appear in bad science fiction movies.

“The Core” was bad science fiction in part because the science was bad. But a bad science fiction movie can still be an enjoyable movie. “The Core” is one of my favorite bad science fiction movies.

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