Gravity, in the literal sense, keeps everyone (and everything) on Earth grounded. It acts as the anchor that prevents objects from floating skyward. For humans, it’s a leash that stops us from straying too far away from the planet’s surface. While the idea of free-floating down to neighborhood pub and drinking a pint of yeasty goodness pooled together like an alcohol-filled bubble in mid-air might seem like fun, there’s much more to gravity than just stopping us from “getting the floats.”
Gravity is the weakest sibling of the four basic forces that help make our universe what it is. Two of those forces, gravity and electromagnetism, are visibly seen at work every day. As mentioned, gravity keeps us in place. It’s also why planets are in motion around the sun and is the brute strength behind the formation of new planets and stars.
Electromagnetism is put to use in many household products that require an electrical current or battery to operate, and involves how matter interacts with electricity and magnetism. Then we the two forces that never get the spotlight – strong and weak nuclear force. Their worlds exist inside the nuclei of atoms, and as the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind.
First, we’re going to limit the gravity-on-strike scenario to Earth only. Were it to be universe-wide, the effect on our sun alone would be drastic enough to cause it to violently explode in mere minutes and shower the galaxy with super-heated gas. And that just means instantaneous death for everyone, so let’s stick to our planet for now. As gravity vanished and the Earth kept spinning, that sensation of floating always associated with Zero G scenarios wouldn’t quite play out like that.
Instead, it would feel as though the Earth was falling out from underneath you, rather than you leaving the ground in slow motion. We can’t say whether our atmosphere would have the same physical sensation, but it would also be on the move. As you’re watching your unplugged toaster float past you and marveling at the force of electromagnetism at work to get you your morning peanut butter and toast fix, so too would the atmosphere head upwards.
Here’s where the life-threatening trouble starts for us – we need the atmosphere to breath. Without a stable, “in-place” atmosphere, suffocation would be unavoidable.
So grab an oxygen tank and carry on, right? At this point, you’re probably realizing living on a gravity-free Earth isn’t as much fun as you thought, and you might be getting the cold sweats. That sweat would pool up around you, and you’d start experiencing some of the inconveniences involved with intimate physical contact in space.
Oceans and rivers would mimic your sweat’s behaviour, but on a much grander scale. Large bodies of water would leave the planet’s surface, breaking into smaller pools and continuing to break down the further they are from Earth. Ocean creatures would be okay within these floating liquid cocoons, but unfortunately not for long. And since we also need water to survive, strap as many bottles of the stuff onto you as you can.
If you were in your house when the gravity switch was turned off, you’d be safe from a slow death drift, but only temporarily. Despite the oxygen rig, the water supply and a roof (or in this case, a ceiling) bumping against your head, huge hunks of the Earth would start to break off and perpetually continue to downsize. Your house would act only as a false sense of security, since when it comes to gravity size doesn’t matter. Earth with no gravity would not be Earth for long, so let’s all be thankful we have science to keep us firmly (and safely) rooted to the ground.
Story by Jay Moon
- The Fundamental Forces of Nature
- What would happen to you if gravity stopped working?
- What If There Were No Gravity?
- Life Without Gravity
- What Would Happen If Gravity Stopped?
- What would happen to a solar system if gravity suddenly stopped working?
- The History of Gravity
- What would happen if the Earth’s gravity suddenly disappeared?
- Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity
- Einstein’s Relativity Explained in 4 Simple Steps