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Spin the Earth Backwards

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"SUPER-CHRIS flies off into SPACE and, as much as it's still impossible to believe that this was a thing that actually happened in an actual major motion picture, he FLIES AROUND THE EARTH so fast that THE EARTH STARTS SPINNING BACKWARDS, which somehow, SOMEHOW, causes TIME TO REVERSE ITSELF."
The Editing Room's abridged script for Superman: The Movie

Simply put, this is the idea that slowing, stopping, or reversing the rotation of the Earth will somehow alter the flow of time, with reversing the planet's rotation causing a local reversal of causality.

The nefarious Dr. Dino, a fearsome T. Rexpy 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 – Space.


    open/close all folders 

  • 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.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fireball: In one episode, Gedächtnis claims Drossel is powerful enough to reverse the rotation of the planet and turn back time.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 1 inverts this trope by having an alien spacecraft run out of control and brush by Planet Earth, causing it to spin faster in its normal direction. This causes time to go faster, eventually aging the goats to adult age and Wolffy to senior citizen age within a matter of days.

    Comic Books 
  • Teen Titans: Parodied affectionately in Tiny Titans #6 when the Teen Titans ask Supergirl to reverse time by flying around the Earth backward in order to not get grounded (long story).
    Supergirl: Oh! Fly around the Earth backwards and reverse time? No problem!
  • Viz: One issue had the drunk superhero The Brown Bottle thinking he could reverse time by spinning around. He passes out and wakes up thinking he's successful after finding the previous day's newspaper.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • In Superman and Man, Pre-Crisis Superman gets to watch the 1978 movie. When he gets to the part where his cinematic incarnation reverses the Earth's rotation, he lampshades that time-travel doesn't work like that (and he would know).
    He also wouldn't have been so easily suckered by Kryptonite.
    Nor could he have turned the world backwards by flying around it in a counterorbital direction. Even if he could turn it in such a way (theoretically, he supposed his old body could have, by sheer muscle power), it wouldn't have reversed time, and it would have destroyed the Earth.
    If he had wanted to change history, he would have taken a trip back in time himself, by spinning himself at hyperlight speed. Except that he knew he couldn't change history. If Lois had died because of his negligence, she would have stayed dead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Superman: The Movie is well-known 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. Apparently, Donner had originally intended the "going back in time/spinning the earth backwards" ending for Superman II, but for whatever reason, used it to solve the dilemma of the first film. The reason that it was in the Director's Cut was that that there was no realistic way to film a new ending (and using Richard Lester's ending would defeat the purpose of Donner's director's cut.)

  • 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.
    Fotheringay (after landing): Let nothing happen until I say OFF! [long list of what's needed to fix the situation] Okay, OFF!
  • One segment of the short poem, "11:53:33", refers to this trope:
    we sat on the frozen
    school merry-go-round
    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 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, 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.
  • In The Long Utopia by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett, some Insectoid Aliens actually manage to speed up the rotation of one of the parallel Earths, with realistic consequences, such days getting shorter and shorter and the Earth eventually exploding due to gravitational stress. Since the process is slow, it takes the inhabitants some time to realise what is going on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: "Last of the Time Lords" uses this as an effect to show time reversing when the Paradox Machine is destroyed, back to just before it activated. The Earth isn't actually spinning backwards.
  • 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...
  • "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 episode of The Suite Life of Zack & 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.
  • Arrowverse crossover Elseworlds (2018) pays homage to Superman the Movie in the third episode. As Deegan begins rewriting Earth-1 using the Book of Destiny, Flash and Supergirl come up with a plan to super-speed in opposite directions around the planet, slowing time and giving Superman a chance to get back the Book.

  • The music video for David Guetta, Taio Cruz, and Ludacris's song "Little Bad Girl" involves David Guetta hosting an "Endless Night" party. In order to attain a literally endless night, he and his rave crowd collectively leap in one direction in order to reverse the earth's rotation when dawn arrives.


    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Depressingly subverted in a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic in reference to the Superman example.
    If you were still alive, you'd probably wish Superman had paid more attention in physics class.
  • This xkcd comic gets about as close to this trope as realistically possible, which isn't very much. The young woman in the comic is spinning counterclockwise to try and increase the length of a day just a bit so she can spend more time with her boyfriend.
  • A Troll Science comic claims that it would be simple to halt the rotation of the earth, stopping time and allowing people to live forever.
  • Inspired by Superman, the main character of Mohagen, a goldfish, tries to turn back time by changing the rotation of the water in his fish bowl, but ultimately fails.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Spoofed in an episode American Dad!. Upon learning that Hayley eloped with her boyfriend, Jeff, Stan angrily leaped into the sky and flew around the world to turn back time to the beginning of the episode. Turns out it was actually an Imagine Spot. Stan had actually hit his head when he leaped up. However, he believes he actually turned back time and that Francine is her own grandmother.
  • Occured in an episode of Sidekick when Eric and Trevor were trapped in a super fast Cool Car that eventually got stuck in reverse.
  • The Taz-Mania episode "The Man from M.A.R.S." has Taz and Marvin the Martian reversing time using this method as an attempt to stop themselves from blowing up the Earth.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "1000 Years of Courage", 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.
  • Drawn Together: In "Terms of Endearment", 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.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Variation in "The Loophole". Gumball is hit by Bobert so hard, he winds up being flung across the entire planet backwards until he crashes back into his room, one year prior.
  • In the season one finale of Centaurworld, Ched gets delirious and thinks he can bring Horse back by flying round the world backwards to reverse time.
  • A variation appears in the second Jimmy Timmy Power Hour. Anti-Cosmo, after freeing the anti-fairies from their prison by teaming up with Professor Calamitous, has half of the anti-fairies fly around the world opposite Earth's rotation, not to reverse the Earth's spin, but to stop it, thus making tomorrow never come and making every day Friday the Thirteenth. This also results in calendars becoming an endless series of Friday the 13ths.
  • Used to hit the Reset Button at the end of Wishfart episode "Spicy is Paradise-y" where Puffin, the size of a mountain after thousands of years of constant eating, is finally kept from eating any further so his body will start actually digesting all that food. This causes him to unleash a burp that's so strong, it reverses the rotation of the Earth and reverses time to before he made the wish that led to his endless binge eating.
  • Atomic Puppet: In the episode "Bucket List", Joey and AP try to complete a list the former made when he was 5 about things he wanted to do when he became a superhero, and one of these is to fly around the world so fast they go back in time (a la Superman: The Movie). Joey openly wonders if that's even possible, but AP convinces him to give it a try. It turns out it does work, but when they end up in the Mesozoic by accident, they try the opposite to get back to the present and find that it also works.


Video Example(s):


Superman Spins the Earth

Superman spins the earth backward to reverse Lois's death.

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Main / SpinTheEarthBackwards

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