Good news, for fans of beat-up old vans that haven’t budged from the lawn you parked them on 20 years ago. Your van has actually racked up a bunch of miles! No, a bunch of hoodlums haven’t been stealing it in the night for shenanigans. It’s just been sitting there, stuck on Earth, moving at blazing speeds.
There interesting little physics factoid comes to us from the ever-lovely What if? blog from XKCD. Each week author Randall Munroe tackles a random science-y question, posed by a reader. This week’s question:
In terms of human-made objects, has Voyager 1 travelled the farthest distance? It’s certainly the farthest from Earth we know about. But what about the edge of ultracentrifuges, or generator turbines that have been running for years, for example?
It turns out that space probes like Voyager 1, which is now breaking through the edge of the solar system, haven’t actually traveled that far, relatively. The crux lies in the fact that not only is the Earth rotating constantly, making everything stuck on it just rack up the miles, but also in the fact that once Voyager 1 escaped Earth’s pull, it essentially just went sailing off into the distance. Like someone who took a leisurely walk away from a merry-go-round wildly spinning at just over 1,000 miles an hour.
Add to that that the Earth is going around the sun at over 67,000 miles an hour, and everything still stuck here is moving very fast indeed, including your old van. So even though Voyager 1 is moving at 39,600 miles per hour, it’s not nearly as fast as your crapwagon, or, really, as fast as you. Which means you’ve gone much further, especially if you were born before 1977, the year Voyager 1 left the planet.
So if you have a 1974 Plymouth Voyager, it’s done a few million miles by now. No matter what it says on the odometer.
Or did I just blow your mind?
H/t to For Sweden on Oppo!
Photo credit: Photobeppus