Understanding How the Earth Moves Through Space Can Make Your Head Spin

This entry is part 2 of 17 in the series Issue XII: Spring 2013 Prose

By Donald Lortie

Most of us probably don’t dwell on the topic of the earth speeding through space, but it’s one of the things brought to my attention in an astronomy class in college over 50 years ago. Let’s examine some of the facts.

First of all the earth is spinning (rotating on its axis) at over 1000 miles per hour. You can figure that out when you realize that it takes 24 hours. But that doesn’t affect the path of the earth through space. It affects the path people move through space within the system—an interesting point that most people don’t think about. The earth is also moving around the sun to make a year; that speed is over 67,000 miles per hour and over 200 million miles in a year. Multiply that by your age to see how far you have traveled. Next the earth is situated toward the outer edge of the Milky Way Galaxy which is also rotating or spinning, but the galaxy itself is moving through space because everything is moving away from everything else in the universe according to the idea of the expanding universe. This leads me to think that the earth and its people may be moving through space in sort of a bumpy corkscrew fashion—the people on it moving more erratically because of rotation of the earth, but that may not be the end of it because the universe itself may be moving relative to other universes according to the multiverse (multiple universes) theory. So the earth is sitting inside a system of other rotating bodies moving in a complex fashion impossible to visualize and at speeds impossible to comprehend.

Consider the speed of light, more than 186,000 miles per second. That’s more than 7 times around the world in one second. At that speed light from the edges of the universe has been racing toward us for 13.7 billion years which is considered the age of the universe. If there is anything out there beyond that, we can’t see it because the light hasn’t reached us yet. At this point my head is spinning. How about yours? Light from the sun takes about 8 minutes to get here.

The facts I have stated I remember from my astronomy class, but I added the multiverse theory. In those days that theory wouldn’t have been accepted. Another theory I have become interested in recently is the Electric Universe theory which contradicts current generally accepted theories of the universe. It substitutes electrical forces and plasma physics as the major forces in the universe instead of gravitational forces holding all bodies in the universe in place. Perhaps it is a combination of both forces.

Writing about space in the universe (macro world) makes me think about space in the micro world: our bodies are mostly space, solid objects are mostly space, atoms are mostly space. To give you an idea of how much space consider the following fact: A few teaspoons of the nucleus of a neutron star would weigh about a billion tons. Why? Because the space is gone. The atoms are crushed together so much that the nuclei of all the atoms touch each other—no space, no electrons, jut a very dense material.
I hope you enjoy the material in these short paragraphs. I hope the material isn’t too dense. I hope this material doesn’t blow your mind or make your head spin. If you want more, watch Cosmos by Carl Sagan or other stories about the universe on Netflix.

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