Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Long New Year.

Yes, I'm at home, sober, not socialising, not watching TV and trying to ignore a barrage of fireworks that made me think the Israelis were coming. Some of those pyrotechnics break the Geneva convention, I'm sure.

I know it's a party night but I picked up another cold. Since it's -5C (about 20F) outside and I well remember what happened last time I took a cavalier approach to a cold, I decided to stay in.

I used to like the New Year TV shows, but then I was always fairly well dosed with chuckle juice by the time they came on. If you've ever considered watching New Year TV sober - don't. It's dreadful. The shows are designed for the booze-addled mind and watching them sober can result in grinding of teeth and flinging of remotes.

So, I was thinking... what is this new year thing anyway? Our planet goes around the sun, and at some arbitrary point on the way it moves from 2008 to 2009. Not all at once - people in New Zealand are waking up with hangovers now, while the USA has a few more hours to prepare. The transition takes 24 hours to complete and then we go around until we get back here again, and it starts all over.

There's no flag in space that tells us where the changeover point is. There's no 'Go' square. The annual year-change is arbitrary and, sitting here as possibly the only sober person in Scotland tonight, I've had time to think.

In rough terms, this is what I've been thinking. I warn you, it can be dull...

We're roughly 93 million miles from the sun (on average, our orbit is elliptical not circular but I have a cold and I'm not feeling up to calculating ellipses so this is all estimate). If our orbit was circular, that would be a distance of pi x 2 x 93 000 000 around the circumference. Which is a long way. It's 584336233.6 miles, in fact.

It's so far that it takes a whole year to get right round. Well, 364.25 days. Which means that the Earth travels through space a distance of roughly 1.6 million miles in 24 hours. Wherever you are - or were - at midnight tonight, you were 1.6 million miles from where you were at midnight last night, even if it was in the same bed.

It also means that New Zealand's New Year point on the circumference of the Earth's orbit is nearly a million miles earlier than the UK, and about 1.6 million miles earlier than Alaska.

So it doesn't just take 24 hours to get this whole New Year thing sorted out, it takes 1.6 million miles too. No wonder it seems to last forever!

Well, I'm sure it's all rather dull, but that's what happens when you leave a scientist to his own devices while everyone else parties. It doesn't matter too much - this time tomorrow I'll be 1.6 million miles away...

Sometimes that has considerable appeal.

4 comments:

Southern Writer said...

I'm into the planets and their orbits, and I never knew the earth traveled that far in a day. Wow. That's a lot of distance.

Take care of that cold. Old wive's remedy: eat a large bowl full of boiled onions. Just boil, drain, add some milk and cheese. It's like macaroni and cheese without the macaroni.


Ver: flu su

That's short for "f**k you, flu season."

Dr. Brainiac said...

I concur with your assessment that some days being 1.6 miles away has considerable appeal.

Isn't it interesting that we're so accustomed to hurtling through space at such a rate that we don't notice it?

A prosperous and productive 2009 to you!

Romulus Crowe said...

SW- Old Crowe recipe - whisky, lemon juice, honey, sugar, hot water and whisky. It doesn't do a thing but it does feel very good going down.

Dr. B - I suppose it's all relative. We don't notice the speed in a car until we hit the brakes. It's like Australians - they're so accustomed to gripping with their toes they no longer realise they're walking around upside down.

Yes, I'm in flippant mood. Cold medication can do that.

Dr. Brainiac said...

Mmmmmm - I love a good NyQuil buzz...

"dowairn" - is that some kind of Celtic undergarment?

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