14 September 2014

If British Airways Offered Jet Service To The Moon, How long A Flight Would It Be?

Posted by Dan Satterfield

From XKCD.

From XKCD. Click for larger version.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 7.19.45 PMHave you ever thought about how long a commercial airline flight to the Moon would take?? It’s actually a good question, and an excellent way of getting your head around the vast distances of just our own solar system. It’s actually an easy math problem, and while not all such questions are that simple, they almost all come with surprising results.

Meteorologists frequently get these type questions, and  can tell you, that I know of no meteorologist who has not gotten a letter/email from someone who has decided that to get rid of hurricanes,tornadoes, etc. that we just need to drop a bomb in one (an idea that for some reason tends to be mainly favored by Americans). If you wonder about that one, first figure out the energy released by a large bomb and the figure out the energy released by an average strong thunderstorm.There is a reason we teach physics in high school, and why you should have to take it to graduate!

Here is another one. Could a batter hit a baseball if the pitcher could throw it at 90% of the speed of light? I’ll give you a hint: No, and he would not survive to try for strike 2 either,and wait until you read what happens to the fans! Everyone has thought of crazy questions like this, and now someone has put the answers in a book. Who better than Randall Munroe, the writer of every geek’s favorite cartoon, XKCD (My personal favorite XKCD cartoon is at the top of the page).

I highly recommend his book what if- Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions.

Oh, and the answer about the Moon is that at 550 knots it will take about 30 minutes to reach the ISS and 18 days to get to the Moon. How long to Jupiter? Read the book!