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I found this question on the internet and I feel curious about it. I assume that even if the direction were to be switched, it would not matter because the people driving from east to west and vice-versa are basically the same as before hence conserving the total angular momentum of the system. Can anybody explain if this actually has any effect?

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  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicates: physics.stackexchange.com/q/56245/2451 , physics.stackexchange.com/q/266666/2451 and links therein. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Sep 27 '17 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ There will be slight changes to angular momentum. If you imagine a commute as a 2 way trip, you still turn around and it is still a loop. You complete this loop either clockwise or counter clockwise depending on the side of the road you drive on. This effect however will be much too small in comparison to the Earth. $\endgroup$ Sep 27 '17 at 21:55
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Correct. Only if there was an asymmetry in the E/W direction people drove would there be any effect on the length of a day (and it'd be tiny, and would require people to drive around the world to keep it up).

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Imagine following the cars in Britain with your fingers as if seen from above. Regardless of the position or road direction, your fingers would move clockwise. Similarly in the rest of Europe, they will move counter-clockwise. Due to Newton's 3rd law, Britain's cars accelerate the Earth and the rest of Europe decelerates.

Now this has much less effect than if there was any E-W asymmetry and its effect is weakened since only the projection onto the equatorial plane is taken, but it is there. The regions on the equator would not play a role and of course there has to be an asymmetry between left and right driving people between the two hemispheres, since everything in the south hemisphere would be reversed.

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