And, yet, the Earth’s core spins faster

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
26 September, 2016
Editorial: 33
Fecha de publicación original: 20 agosto, 1996

Date of publication: 20/8/1996. Editorial 033.

“A cold hand and a warm heart”

The Internet phenomenon is so difficult to grasp that each day we encounter new points of reference which attempt to explain it. Internet is like a creature, but also like a fascinating crystal in full growth. It’s like a set of numbers which summarise the most advanced mathematical theories, and let’s not forget its resemblance to the complex behaviour of ecosystems. In the last few months it would seem that biologism is finding enough supporting evidence to be able to compare the behaviour of the Net to the natural processes which govern the development of living things, including evolution, mutations, extinctions and dead ends.

Some of these ideas become very productive when tendencies towards what could be taking place on the Internet are suggested. James Moore, for example, is making a mint in the USA from his book The Death of Competition, whose subtitle clearly indicates where he’s aiming his shots: Leadership and Strategy in the age of Business Ecosystems. Moore explains from a biological perspective how the creation of networks and the channelling of social and economic (and soon, political) relations through them, are substantially modifying the business world. This consultant for some of the most important “Fortune 500” companies discovered, apparently to his great surprise, that these days cooperation is just as important as competition, if not more so. It is not surprising, then, that “The Diversity of Life” by the brilliant entomologist Edward O. Wilson is one of his cult books, or perhaps the one he worships most.

Nevertheless, although the comparison with the theory of ecosystems is very attractive, when it comes from the mouths of these financial sharks it has the ancestral resonance of the great plunderers of the bottomless depths: one of the many ways to gobble up small fish gathering power to pit themselves against the big fish. At any rate, the truth is that the small fish have never had the opportunities they have now, with the Internet, to create such well-conceived gangs themselves. Which, we must never forget, is also true for the big fish.

Personally, I think the most elegant and brilliant analogy for the Internet is carried inside the earth’s bosom. And, isn’t it interesting that it has only just come to light thanks, amongst other things, to digital technology? Paul Richards, a seismologist at the University of Columbia and Xiaodong Song, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in the Palisades (both in New York), using a computer simulation of the earth’s magnetic field, have just confirmed an incredible prediction: the innermost core of our planet is an iron crystal with a mass similar to that of the moon which spins slightly faster than the rest of the planet. To discover that in the interior of this old rock there is another which is also spinning round, was a tremendous surprise. Then, on also finding it is spinning even faster than the external “doll”, it became an enigma. Forgive the facile comparison but likening this phenomenon to what is happening on the Internet these days is unavoidable. This gigantic mass of communication and knowledge which spins faster than that which contains it and therefore, depending on its constantly growing mass, starts to have a decisive influence on the orbital speed of the larger body.

The analogy does not end here, however. Mr. Richards has been able to specify that this moving earth’s core is 2,400 kilometres in diameter, and forms part of a gigantic electric motor. Electric currents of thousands of millions of amps are flowing around the edge between this solid core and the fluid core which surrounds it. These currents generate an enormously powerful force which attracts the solid core. Due to the fact that the fluid core which surrounds it has a relatively low viscosity, the solid core can spin freely.

Something similar is going on with the Internet (or isn’t it?). The area of friction between the Net and the outside, between cyberspace and the real world which contains it, is charged with electricity, with tension, or as my friend Antonio Farrás would say, with potential energy. This provokes a powerful pull on the Net, on this solid core, making it spin freely. It’s better not to even think what the catastrophic consequences to earth would be if the surrounding fluid decided to impose its own speed, its own rules, on the solid it carries in its bowels. We could all be electrocuted!

It was Galileo who muttered that immortal phrase “Eppure, si muove”. However, the Earth moves around the Sun and therefore it is not the centre of the Universe as the Roman Catholic Inquisition would have liked, and for which they put him on trial to make him retract such heresy. Not only did it move, however, but inside it moved even more. We don’t only owe outstanding astronomic discoveries to the genius of Pisa. In his “Discourse on Things that Float”, Galileo used the virtual speed principle to demonstrate the most basic theorem of hydrostatics and deduce the necessary conditions for a solid body to float in a liquid. Galileo, virtual speed, flotation of solids, the Earth’s core, the Internet….All this shows Mr. Moore that it is not necessary to convert science into a mundane manual of economic manoeuvres whose only aim is to advise companies on how to earn more money. Science provides us with much more captivating comparisons on what we are doing these days – and what is happening – with the Internet. This solid core which spins faster than the rest of the planet is telling us some very interesting things. We probably won’t get economically much richer. But we are already used to that. This is our natural speed.

Translation: Bridget King.