10 Million Miles for Science

Posted on July 18, 2012


Folks, here is Simple Sam joining us for this special imaginary broadcast.  Well, Sam, what do you think?  Glamour, excitement and hype!  O my!

“What am I doing here?  This piece has nothing to do with climate change.”

No, Sam, but we’re a small operation, the Father Theo shop.  I thought you might like to participate in something a little different, where we’re not making fun of you always, or your clop-clop…

“So what’s going on?  That guy in the spandex red suit, should he really be tying his shoes while facing away from the camera?”

That’s the Flash, Sam.

“You can afford to hire the Flash?”

Only for my imaginary television show.  And he’s not permitted to talk or grant interviews.

“What is the Flash here for?”

To do the 10 million mile run demonstration for our readers, er, viewers.

“Ten million miles?”

You can see why we had to get the Flash.

“But can’t the Flash go faster than the speed of light?”

For today, we’re making use of his ability to run on water and over any terrain.  But he isn’t going to be going anywhere that close to the speed of light.  Our goal is to show our readers, um, viewers what 10 million miles an hour looks like.

“Where are you going to get a 10 million mile racetrack?”

The track is the Earth itself, Sam.  At approximately 25,000 miles in circumference, 10 million miles is 400 circuits all the way around.  For our demonstration today, we’re going to have the Flash circle the Earth 400 times in one hour precisely.  Cool, don’t you think?  That’s not the speed of light, not even close, but it is 10 million miles an hour, Sam.  Ten million miles an hour.  T’will do.  T’will serve.  (A little Shakespeare allusion there.)  And the excitement builds.

“I notice the things on his head are a lot bigger than I imagined they were.”

I noticed that earlier myself.  I understand—and this is not generally known, Sam—that they’re not just decoration.  Evidently, the Flash uses them aerodynamically, to stay on the ground, you know, and not accidentally go into orbit.  Used to happen to him all the time, apparently.

“I wonder why I never noticed how prominent those decorations were before?”

He’s the Flash, Sam.  He was probably going by too fast when you saw him.  Okay, wait for it, he’s about to start.  Leaning into it.  Gone.  Nine.  Just gone.  Seven…

“I didn’t even see him leave.”

… six, five, four, three, two … there he is again, Sam.

“Did he already go all the way around the Earth?  I don’t think I even saw him go by just now…”

Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Here he is again, Sam.


The circuit marker says twice.  At 27 seconds, coming up on a third time.  Ten million miles an hour means that the Flash circles the globe every nine seconds.  Third time.

“That’s it?  Just an electronic circuit marker?  There’s nothing to see.  He’s too fast…”

Don’t worry.  We’ve got him on the ultra-fast camera.  See, his picture, a few seconds later, comes up on the monitors.  Monitor one, the first circuit.  Monitor two…My.  That’s impressive.  The Flash goes by so fast you can’t even see him, yet he still manages to pose for the camera.

“If you want to call that posing.”

Thumbing his nose at the whole world at unimaginable super-speed, Sam.  He’s really quite the character.

“Except that’s not his thumb and it’s nowhere near his nose.  Is it all right to broadcast that picture?”

Our viewers will get a pixilated version of the picture for now, but they can catch the gesture in all its uncensored glory on the six o’clock news.

“Is the Flash angry at something?”

Well, we heard from his lawyers asking, you know, if it was just a demo of what 10 million miles an hour looks like, why do we need a whole hour?  He could circle the Earth a 100 times, scorching it for a solid 15 minutes, and that ought to be enough.  That’s still a 100 times around the planet.  Why the whole hour?  Well, our lawyers said…

“I can guess what your lawyers said.  Can I ask—I don’t think you mentioned—what this demonstration is all in service of?”

Sam, I came upon this quote from NASA:

Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have detected what they believe is a planet two-thirds the size of Earth. The exoplanet candidate, called UCF-1.01, is located a mere 33 light-years away…

“What of it?”

It actually says “a mere 33 light years away.”

“I think you’re making too much of this.”

No, really, if we sent the Flash out to visit this planet at 10 million miles an hour, it would take him 4.5 thousand years to make the round trip.  Merely, Sam?  Merely?

“You’re telling me that you have the Flash circling the globe 400 times just to make that point?  All this set-up, that’s just to question adverb use in a NASA press-release?”

A four-point-five thousand year round trip at a ten million miles an hour.  Put it in perspective, Sam.  A mere 33 light years away.  Really?  And… Sometimes someone has to make sacrifices for science. — Hey look, only 354 circuits to go.  Is that guy fast, or what?


See http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_12-238_Spitzer_Small_Exoplanet.html

Posted in: tall tales