My mind is out in space this afternoon, figuratively speaking of course. Where would I be if my mind was literally out in space and the rest of me was sitting in this chair while poking a keyboard ? That raises the question: How long would it take a thought to travel from the edge of space to near sea level?
I am pretty sure someone could answer that question or at least give it a shot. It seems like there are as many answers out there, perhaps even more, than there are questions. Here’s a question for you. How fast does the Earth move around the Sun? I had to find — on the Internet — an astrophysicist to answer this one.
“Earth’s average distance to the Sun is 150,000,000 km (93 million miles), therefore the distance it travels as it circles the Sun in one year is that radius x 2 x pi, or 942,000,000 million kilometers in a year of 24 hours/day x 365 1/4 = 8,766 hours so you divide to get 107,000 km/h or about 67,000 mph. You could also say the Earth moves around the Sun at 30 km/s. The Sun circles the center of our Galaxy at about 250 km/s. Our Galaxy is moving relative to the ‘average velocity of the universe at 600 km/second’ “– From “Ask the Astrophysicist, 1997.”
It certainly doesn’t feel as if we are traveling that fast. I bet if we felt that velocity, then even us Texans would talk fast.
Perhaps it is that I might make a couple of airline trips later this year that I ponder the many illusions one confronts when traveling in a physics-laden universe. I think in specific, why it seems one isn’t really going anywhere, or at least, isn’t going anywhere fast, while traveling at hundreds of miles per hour.
Oh, I’m not talking about takeoff or landing or making airborne turns or experiencing turbulence. I speak of the motionless feeling of flight itself. You can close your eyes and practically feel as if you are sitting in your favorite uncomfortable chair at home. Then, if it is daytime and not cloudy outside your little air cabin porthole, you peer downward some seven miles to terra firma and can tell the plane is moving somewhat. That is even though it doesn’t feel as if you are traveling 500 mph.
While you are looking at the ground to see what’s there or if you are trying to locate something you recognize, all of a sudden you see another airline in the distance and it is literally flying by. It’s flying by, as in “zoom,” it’s out of here!
It’s all just an illusion, you remind yourself. Such trickery doesn’t find limits in flight either.
I remember when my brother brought a motor boat home from Connecticut that he won playing poker with some Navy shipmates. We set “sail” out on Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas, and when my brother cranked the outboard to full speed, it felt like we were “flying,” as in we felt like we were hauling ass! Yes, I know. It’s an odd idiom. But you know what I mean. We were maybe going 25 mph, but it seemed even faster out there on the lake.
Years later when I was in the Navy I joined my ship, a mid-1940s version destroyer, which was in a San Pedro, Calif., drydock having a new hull installed. It was only a month or so after I reported on board that the work was completed and we took the ship to water for the first time in several months for a “shakedown cruise”
It seemed to take forever to transit from the shipyards, under the Vincent Thomas Bridge and out past the breakwaters. Once on a bit more open water the captain ordered “All Ahead, Full” and the 30-year-old warship let its engines rip. I was standing out on the fantail watching the screws churn thousands of gallons of seawater effortlessly. I can recall the smile that came across my face as it did some of my new friends who were goofing off, getting sun and tasting the salty air spraying us all. I don’t know how fast we were going. I guess technically a warship’s speed is classified, but the Fletcher class destroyer as we were on was designed for almost 45 mph. Were we going that fast that day? Who cared, as long as little springs of water didn’t start popping out of the hull.
One of those other strange sensations on water, but even in the air or on the ground is how one feels after concluding a journey. In a car after a long ride, you might go to bed that night feeling like you are still riding. Or perhaps you feel “bouncy” after a long flight.
The sensation I found even more bizarre was docking in port after encountering heavy weather. I learned pretty fast how to walk down a passageway during big waves, thus gaining my “sea legs.” It came to be second nature, so it wasn’t a total surprise when I walked with sea legs off the brow and on down the pier for a ways.
Your body, nature, the land, sea, physics all seem to converge at times to play a little joke upon the unsuspecting. I adapted like a duck in water when I rode the Pacific on a 390-foot, 2,400-ton tin can. It took a bit longer not to tighten-up when the bumps began while flying the friendly skies. But it took only one ride that day at the carnival when my Daddy and I made the idiot decision to ride the gravity-defying Tilt O’ Whirl.
Life’s a trip, isn’t it?