So you think you’re not going anywhere? Think again!
Sunday morning. You’re too tired to go to church, so there you are, still in robe and slippers, laid back in your recliner, foot rest up, coffee on the little table beside the chair. In your lap lies the heavy Sunday paper with all those bright ads for things you’ve never imagined. You’re going to read them because you need something to do since today, you have decided, you’re not going anywhere.
That’s what you think!
Have a sip of coffee (take care it doesn’t slop out of the cup) and consider where on earth you are: somewhere between the equator and one of the poles. (Don’t want to leave anybody out). The old earth turns and turning drags you along with it. At the equator it’s dragging you in a big, roughly circular path at about 1000 miles per hour (mph). About 17 miles per minute (mpm). But you’re not at the equator; you’re somewhere between it and one of the poles, so let’s say your speed (as the world turns–where have I heard that?) is only 800 mph or 13 mpm. Divide that by 60 and you have found that while you sat there and in less time than “one sip of coffee” you have moved more than 1000 feet. Well, you say, you can beat that in a supersonic jet.
Hold on to that seat for a sec! While the earth rolls around once every 24 hours, it is also swinging around the sun once every year. The math here gets a bit tedious, but if you pursue it, you will find your combined speeds now total about 67,000 mph–somewhere in the vicinity of 20 miles every second. Your SST ain’t gonna keep up with you now.
Hold on a bit longer! Remember? The entire solar system – sun and planets, including Earth and your recliner, and you, is spiraling around the Milky Way galaxy, and the whole galaxy plus a few others known to astronomers as the “local group,” is sailing through space with no port to pull into. Let’s just guess that speed at between 1 and 2 or 3 million mph – probably more – in a combination of velocities – none of which are straight – that would make the roughest, toughest old sea dog sea-sicker than, well, a dog.
Just one of those weird motions is the earth and moon whirling around their “barycenter” like a twirler’s baton with the earth on one end and the moon on the other. The speed of this earth motion is not great – it’s estimated at less than 30 mph – (the speed of the moon, being farther from the “pivot,” is much greater) — but it is there; similar motions apply to the sun and planets and to other systems, such as double stars.
It’s enough to make you sick, isn’t it? I hope you aren’t, but it’s no wonder you’re tired.
by Jim Turner