Fact checking the Galaxy Song – Monty Python’s astronomy lesson


Any geek worth her NaCl understands everything about English funny group Monty Python, and their variation of the King Arthur legend, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” But lower understood are the performers’s other feature films, consisting of 1983’s “The Meaning of Life.” Amidst a supper celebration with Death and a machine that goes “ping!”, audiences are dealt with to among the weirdest, most appealing astronomy ignore there: The Galaxy Song (sung here by Stephen Hawking).

It’s a real earworm (I’ll have the song stuck in my moving towards weeks now), however simply how precise is the science? Let’s have a look!

Just bear in mind that you’re basing on a world that’s developing

Inthe sense that it changes gradually over time, sure, Earth’s developing.

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And revolving at 900 miles an hour.

Assuming they indicated rotation, as in the Earth spinning on its axis (and not around the Sun, as revolving usually suggests), then yes, this holds true at certain latitudes.

It’s orbiting at 19 miles a 2nd, so it’s reckoned,

Yes,pretty much: Our orbital speed is 29.78 km/hour, or 18.5 miles/second.

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TheSun that is the source of all our power.

Forthe the majority of part, yes. The Sun powers photosynthesis, enabling plants and plant-eating animals to prosper. Our energy requires likewise mostly derive from the Sun: Old plants and animals can become nonrenewable fuel sources, and sustainable sources like solar and hydroelectric power eventually come from with our regional star. But! Nuclear energy and geothermal energy both have independent source of power, so it’s not all our power.

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TheSun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,

Are moving at a million miles a day,
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Alas, our very first significant mistake. All the stars visible to the naked eye are certainly within the Milky Way (not counting the combined light from other galaxies), however our orbital speed around the stellar center is about 200 km/s, or approximately 11 million miles a day. The song is off by an order of magnitude.

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In an external spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour,

Thesolar system is in an outer spiral arm of our galaxy, however once again we’re addressing 200 km/s, or 450,000 miles per hour. But 40,000 miles per hour has to do with the like “a million miles a day,” so a minimum of the song’s constant.

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Ofthe galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Yes,we call our home galaxy the Milky Way.

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Our galaxy itself includes a hundred billion stars,

There isn’t really a single agreed upon figure for this in astronomy, however the common consensus is in between 100 billion and 400 billion stars. So, sure, close enough.

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It’s a hundred thousand light-years side to side.

Yes,pretty much exactly! Though, a 2015 study found it may in fact be 150,000 light-years throughout.

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It bulges in the middle sixteen thousand light-years thick,

Pretty close: The Milky Way does have a bulge at its center, however it’s most likely closer to 10,000 light-years thick (though some sources state 16,000 is ideal).

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But out by us it’s simply 3 thousand light-years large.

This is another figure without any clear response, and the majority of price quotes vary from 1,000 light-years thick to 3,000 light-years, earning the song another “close enough.”

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We’re thirty thousand light-years from Galactic Central Point,

Another remarkably precise figure: We have to do with 8 kiloparsecs from the Milky Way’s center, which exercises to 26,000 light-years.

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We go ’round every 2 hundred million years;-LRB- *******************************************************)

Well, close enough: About every 225 million years, basically.

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And our galaxy is just one of countless billions

This is another one where the song is method off. “Millions of billions” would indicate quadrillions of galaxies, and we’re no place near to that: Recent approximates put the number at about2 trillion But, that is 10 times more than was formerly believed, so if patterns continue, I think the song’s figure may dominate one day.

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In this remarkable and broadening universe.

“Amazing” may be tough to measure, however it’s pretty clear the universe is expanding.

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The universe itself keeps broadening and broadening,

Yup, see the previous entry.

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In all the instructions it can whiz;-LRB- *******************************************************)

Yes, as far as we can inform.

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As quickly as it can go, the speed of light, you understand,

Our last significant mistake: The universe can (and parts of it maybe do) broaden faster than the speed of light. While c is certainly the cosmic speed limitation for matter, the universe itself is not constrained by it.

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Twelve million miles a minute which’s the fastest speed there is.

The normal numbers for the speed of light are 3 x 10 8 m/second, or 186,000 miles/second, and theywork out to a bit over 11 million miles a minute So a minimum of the song’s close.

So keep in mind, when you’re feeling really little and insecure,

How incredibly not likely is your birth;-LRB- *****************************************************)

Taking into account all the genetic and environmental accidents that needed to take place throughout all time to lead to your particular birth, “amazingly unlikely” appears reasonable.

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And pray that there’s smart life someplace up in space,

(SETI is notoriously attempting to address this concern one method or another.)

‘Cause there’ s bugger all down here on Earth!

This one is left as a workout to the reader.

This post initially appeared on Discovermagazine.com.



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