Spin the Earth Backwards
The nefarious Dr. Dino, a fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex
that spent eras trapped in ice
hundreds of miles beneath ground level and gained massive scientific intelligence through exposure to radiation from the planet's core, is hard at work with his evil scheme in his secret lab at the center of the Earth. He knows his people are long extinct, but he plans to undo that: he's installing a heat-powered, super-strong revolution motor in the center of the planet. When he finally switches it on, it will force the Earth's rotation to stop and reverse direction, thereby rewinding time to the Cretaceous period where the dinosaurs reigned supreme! Mwahahaha...
It doesn't take a physics major (although it doesn't hurt to be one) to realize that Dr. Dino's scheme has no reason whatsoever to work as planned, even if his planetary rotation motor thingamajig
does. We just so happen to measure time by the rotations and revolutions of the Earth; modifying the latter would almost certainly do absolutely nothing to alter the former (excluding the principle of relativity, of course, but that works very differently). Expecting it to do so is akin to pouring more mercury into a thermometer and expecting the room to get warmer as a direct result.
And yet, this appears to be a fairly common misconception across many different works. How many times in fiction has someone slowed down, sped up, or (most commonly) rewound time simply by altering the Earth's rotation accordingly, as if the planet were attached by the poles to the Master Clock of the Universe?
A subtrope of Artistic License – Physics
and Artistic License – Astronomy
Anime and Manga
- In one episode of Fire Ball, Gedächtnis claims Drossel is powerful enough to reverse the rotation of the planet and turn back time.
- In one chapter of The New Adventures of Phineas and Ferb, Perry the Platypus is warned that Dr. Doofenshmirtz might be planning to reverse the rotation of the Earth to change history. Considering his overall incompetence and the fact that his previous attempts to manipulate the Earth’s rotation failed to work out as planned, this scheme would be doomed to failure even if we put aside the fact that it makes no scientific sense.
- In Death to Invisobill, a Danny Phantom fanfiction, Vlad Plasmius uses an army of beings flying in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation to stop time. This is only the first step in a plan to reverse Earth’s rotation and erase certain characters from existence.
- In the X-Men fanfic, The Blood & Tears Progression, Wade is disappointed that time travel does not involve reversing the Earth’s rotation. Or even a DeLorean for that matter.
- In A gentleman and a lady, a Pretty Little Liars fanfic, Emily experiences a humiliating moment and runs away, “as fast as she could, hoping beyond hope that she could run fast enough to rotate the Earth backwards so she could go back in time."
- In The Scarlet Speedster, a fanfic set in the DCU, the villainous Professor Zoom tries to use his Super Speed to reverse the rotation of the Earth, sending the planet back to the beginning of time. His end goal is to remake the Earth in his image.
- The first Superman movie is well-known (and well mocked) for including this toward the end of the movie. Superman flies around the earth at absurd speed, and somehow this seems reverse the earth's spin and turn back time. Fans have rightly pointed out for years that this makes no sense whatsoever. However, according to Word Of God, the scene was misunderstood: it wasn't this trope at all. Superman was actually flying so fast that he went faster than light, thus going backwards in time as per the rules of special relativity. The earth's rotation reversed because, from Superman's (and the viewer's) perspective, time was flowing backwards and we were watching it in reverse.
- This was also in the original director's cut of Superman II.
- In a series of advertisements with Superman and Jerry Seinfeld hanging out together, Superman suggested doing this to keep Jerry's stereo from being destroyed by a mugger. Jerry asked him not to, saying that doing that seems to take the meaning out of everything they do together.
- In the H. G. Wells short story "The Man Who Could Work Miracles", the protagonist, Fotheringay, realizes that all of his wishes come true. To gain more time, he wishes that the Earth to stop rotating, which causes all objects on Earth being hurled off the ground without control, destroying everything. Fotheringay survives because he wished he'd land safe, and seeing the destruction, he commands a return to the time before he had his power.
- One segment of the short poem, "11:53:33", refers to this trope:
we sat on the frozen
slowly spinning under the
idea that if we turn
opposite of the Earth’s rotation
we’ll stop time and stare
at the stars, your hand
innocently and barely touching
my own, and the morning
will only come when we
decide the sun may rise
- At one point in Honeymoon Ranch, by Celeste Hamilton, True wonders whether his wedding to Paige is a bad idea and wishes he were a superhero that could reverse the rotation of the planet and turn back time.
- In Couple Most Likely To, by Lilian Darcy, Jake tries to explain to Stacey how he had wished to be able to fix the mistakes of his past, and he uses the example of a superhero reversing the rotation of the earth.
- In "After the Storm Clears its Bliss," a poetic short story, it is mentioned that this method of time travel, even if it were possible, would do nothing to change the relationship between two characters.
- This form of time manipulation is mentioned in "Martha, Martha, Martha!", a short story by John F. Sills III. In this adaptation of a portion of the Gospel of Luke, the main character embarrasses herself in front of Jesus and wishes she could "spin the earth backwards just one hour to change out a single event for a more suitable one."
- In When the World Stood Still, by Johnston McCulley, a war rages between the United States and Japan. Despite the possibility that peace can be brokered, the peace-hating commander of the American army, Captain Godwin, vows that, come sunrise, he will give his men the order to attack. Professor Selester decides to deal with the situation in the most straightforward way, by stopping the rotation of the Earth so that sunrise does not occur. He succeeds in stopping the planet’s rotation, which leads to great chaos.
- The link between the rotation of the Earth and the passage of time is evident in Cast Away at the Pole, by William Wallace Cook. In it, the main characters discover that at the location of the North Pole, there is a huge rotating pillar. A being known as the Great Ziff lives on top of this structure. By living at the Earth's pole, he escapes the effect of the rotation of the Earth and is therefore immortal.
- Plato's Timaeus and Critias, which discuss Atlantis, have been interpreted in a myriad of ways by proponents of the lost continent. One interpretation, which locates Atlantis at the South Pole, uses similar reasoning to the above example from Cast Away at the Pole. According to this analysis, the mention of a "true ocean" is actually a reference to the "cosmic ocean of time." Time was considered linked to the rotation of the Earth and since the poles are at the extremities of this rotation, they are "free" from its effects. Symbolically, the poles are where time can be said to "stand still."
- In the poem, "The Place Where Time Stands Still," by Eleanor Haley, the narrator attempts to slow down and stop the rotation of the Earth, so that it remains summer forever, and her daughters don’t have to grow up.
- The satirical essay, "Additional Questions Rep. Louie Gohmert Should Ask During Congressional Hearings," by Jeff Johnson, references this form of time travel. One of the important questions that should be addressed is whether Muslim people could band together and run in the opposite direction to the Earth’s rotation, reversing it and sending the planet back in time. It is suggested history could be changed by going back to the Sixties and influencing president JFK.
- In "Remarkable Incident in the Middle of Next Week: Anticipatively Communicated," a writer is upset that he is always falling behind, in all aspects of his life, including his work. He doesn't blame himself, however, but the world itself. He believes days pass by too quickly. As he puts it: "It is not my fault, but that of this ceaseless spinning orb of ours that will not give one a moment’s breathing time." He wishes the world would stop spinning so he could make up for falling behind and one day wakes up to find the planet has stopped spinning, making it perpetually night where he lives. The issue is eventually resolved, the Earth begins to rotate again and day follows night the way it should. The whole adventure was probably just a dream, though.
- My Life as a Human Hairball, by Bill Myers, features a story within a story that uses this form of time travel. In the short story, RetroRunt, a supervillain, ties rockets to the planet and uses them to reverse Earth’s rotation, causing time to run backwards.
- The Secret History of AA Comics, by Bob Rozakis, deals with an Alternate History of the comic book industry. A 1978 Green Lantern movie that came out in this alternate world, a reference to the 1978 Superman motion picture (See Film section), is discussed at length. In it, Green Lantern (instead of Superman) uses his power ring to make the world spin backwards and reverse time.
- In Dressing Death, by Thom L. Nichols, two characters argue about whether this form of time travel would work, with one character claiming that if the Earth "started spinning the other way around the sun", time would be reversed and people would travel back in time.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had this a couple times, though since we see it from the perspective of the villains' base on the moon, it's unclear if the Earth rotating backwards is the cause of the time-reversal, or an effect. Though it was magically-induced both times, so...
- In one episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, the twins gain super powers by making a wish on a shooting star. After they find being superheroes is more trouble than it’s worth, they decide to reverse the rotation of the planet to go back in time to the point they made their wish. Unfortunately, they go too far into the past. In the end, their adventures turn out to have probably been a dream.
- "The Guardian," an episode of Sliders, has a slightly more plausible version of this trope. The main characters arrive on a parallel Earth that is spinning on its axis at a slightly different speed than in their original reality. Objective time is unchanged, of course, but the difference in the speed of rotation means that events on this Earth are "behind," so that it appears to be 1984, rather than 1996 (present day). For example, Quinn attends his father’s funeral, which took place, from his perspective, in 1984.
- In one of Doug's Quailman imagine spots, the villain plans to eliminate weekends by speeding up the rotation of the Earth. Quailman uses his machine to slow down the Earth's rotation to add a third day to the weekend, which he calls "Funday". Speeding up the Earth's rotation would have no effect on the number of days in a week (unless you define a week 1/52 of a year, in which case it would increase the number of days per week, because it would make the days shorter without affecting the year). Maybe Doug fell asleep through astronomy class.
- One villain in Totally Spies! tried this— by flying rapidly around the planet with a high-class airplane, no less.
- Averted in the Futurama episode "That Darn Katz!", when Earth's rotation is first stopped, then restarted in the opposite direction, but this has no effect on time.
- Stan does this in an Imagine Spot in American Dad!.
- Occured in an episode of Sidekick when Eric and Trevor were trapped in a super fast Cool Car that eventually got stuck in reverse.
- In an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, the Earth is hit by an asteroid that two aliens are using to play a game, causing it to spin much faster than normal in its usual direction, sending Courage, Eustace, and Muriel 1000 years into the future. At the end of the episode, it gets hit by the Asteroid again and spins really fast in reverse, sending them back to the present. This one also seems to require Space Friction, since if anything caused the Earth to start spinning faster, it would keep spinning at that same speed until something else made it slow down, per Newton's First Law of Motion.
- In one episode of Drawn Together, Captain Hero manages to turn back time this way, despite being in a wheelchair and paralyzed from the neck down. The Superman example is explicitly referenced.
- In one episode of Almost Naked Animals, Duck increases the rotation of the Earth, which causes time to speed up. As a result, everyone ages more rapidly. Eventually, Earth’s rotation is reversed, which turns back time.