standing still at warp speed

So, this will not come to as a shock to y’all, especially those that know me. I am a nut for science. Geek is me. I love me a little science, particularly when it’s astronomical or astrophysical. And come that day that I shuffle off this mortal coil, I’d love to follow in those galactic travelers’ footsteps before me, Dr Timothy Leary and Gene Roddenberry, and have my ashes sent up into space to become cosmic dust. Awesome!

In recent days a conversation arose regarding motion. And that human beings only perceive motion when it slows down or speeds up. So in attempt to to offer you a little science you can relate to, I just want to let you know what a speed demon you actually are.

Stand still for a moment. Go on. Hands by your side.

Going anywhere?

Well, depending on where you are on the planet, you’re traveling from just slightly above 0 km to approximately 1,674 km/h (or 1,040 miles per hour for you imperialists) as we spin like a little Anna Pavlova on our axis. Get yourself right smack bang on the equator and you’ve hit top speed. Move further away from the equator, and the slower you go. Nana and Pop can move to either of the polar circles for safety and airbags. Also, please note that you are moving in an anti-clockwise motion with the rotation of the Earth whilst standing still.

Oh, but wait. Strap on you seat belts nice and tight as the Earth is also orbiting the Sun at roughly 108,000 km per hour (around 66,000 freakish miles per hour), which it needs to do to get through the 940,000,000 km trek each year, also in an anti-clockwise motion. And slightly elliptical. Think your morning commute is bad?

But of course, it doesn’t just stop an smell the roses there, does it? No sir-ee-Bob! Our fabulous ‘little’ Sun (it’s only a yellow dwarf and very sensitive about conversations about size) to which we are bound is whizzing around the Milky Way in the Orion-Cygnus Spur of the Sagittarius Arm of our spiral galaxy and moving round at approximately 792,000 km per hour (483,000 miles per hour in antiquated measurements). Feeling dizzy? You might just, because this little manoeuvre is happening clockwise! You’ll find the vomit bag in the pocket of the seat in front of you.

Lastly in our overtly generalised trip into astronomical motion, our humble spiral galaxy that is the Way of Milk, is itself part of a gang or cluster group that too likes to stalk the streets of the known Universe. This cool cat is strutting around town at a theoretical speed of about 2,100,000 km per hour (1,300,000 miles per hour – do Imperial measurements even go up that high?). Now I say theoretical, because the brain of all brains, Mr Einstein, said it was kinda moot to work this out because there is no fixed point in the known universe to judge distance traveled due to everything else traveling. At least I think so. I may be suffering from travel sickness.

So where are we headed? Well look towards the constellations of Leo and Virgo, because that’s where all the cool kid galaxies are clustering these days, and they are happy to hear we’re on our way to hang out. Might just make it for afternoon tea, so Ladies, make sure you bring a plate.

So the next time all you rad hippies who need a real job and a haircut get asked by ‘The Man’ what direction your life is headed, you can tell them.

Well, with all this talk about motion, I don’t know about you, but I need a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.

p.s. If you are Australian and not a fetus (i.e. under 27) you’ll probably find that last pop-cultural reference hilarious. If not, laugh anyway just to be polite. We are, after all, civilised specs of dust moving through space so fast that makes Usain Bolt look like he needs a Zimmer Frame, a Bex and a good lie down.


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