Hans Peter Niesward, from the Department of Gravitationsphysik at the ISA in Munich, says we can stop global warming in one fell swoop -- or, more accurately, in one big jump.
The slightly disheveled professor states his case on WorldJumpDay.org, an Internet site created to recruit 600,000,000 people to jump simultaneously on July 20 at 11:39:13 GMT in an effort to shift Earth's position.
Niesward claims that on this day "Earth occupies one of the most fragile positions in its orbits for the last 100 years." According to the site, the shift in orbit will "stop global warming, extend daytime hours and create a more homogeneous climate."
The Man Who Wasn't There
Niesward's theory has at least one major flaw: Niesward doesn't really exist. He is a character created by Torsten Lauschmann, a German-born artist living in Scotland. Lauschmann -- a live performer, filmmaker, DJ and photographer -- may be best known for his work "Misshapen Pearl," described as a "phenomenological investigation of the streetlamp's function in our consumer society."
Lauschmann's multimedia approach has allowed him to explore a wide variety of subjects, including butterflies, paparazzi photos and, now, a flash-mob experiment.
In 2005, Lauschmann encouraged scientists and bloggers from around the world to discuss World Jump Day.
"He thought it would just circulate among friends, but it quickly seemed to morph. Within weeks it was global -- people in Australia were talking about it on the radio," said Neil Mulholland, a reader in contemporary art theory at Edinburgh College of Art. "The more it was discussed, the more people joined the site, and it crashed several times."
The site now claims to have just under 600 million jumpers registered for the cause. But will people jump out of environmental activism or a commitment to the bizarre? Is the jump as important as the buzz it's created?
Members of the online environmental site treehugger.com have been debating not only the physical possibility of the jump's promise but the morality of its outcome.
Some believe it's risky to alter Earth's orbit, while others fear the jump will make the Gregorian calendar obsolete because of the length of Earth's new orbit. Others doubt the ability of the world's population to synchronize an event like this.
The folks at madphysics.com have constructed an anti-World Jump Day manifesto, complete with equations drawn up to dispute the validity of Niesward's -- or Lauschmann's -- theories.
Supposedly based on "seismographic recordings ranging from impacts of comets to the simultaneous movement of the audience at the 2002 World Cup Final," the site uses graphs, bell curves and diagrams to support its hypothesis and directs the user to several prestigious science and environmental sites, none of which mention World Jump Day or support any of its assertions.
One word of caution: The site tells those of us living in the eastern part of the United States to jump at 6:39:13 because we are five hours behind GMT, but that is not true in July. Because of daylight savings time, Lauschmann has a part of the United States jumping an hour early.