A Traveller’s Tale
We present here a copy of a letter sent to us by a man who also supplied a brief covering note describing him as, among other things, an avid Madazine reader. Ah, so he’s the one. He has what we think is an intriguing slant on getting around. Editor
Dear Sir or Madam,
I hope some of your other readers will be interested to hear of an exchange of views I had last week with a friend who called to share a meal with me. During the pre-prandial chat he remarked that I seem to be something of a stick-in-the-mud, as I never venture more than two or three miles from my house, and then only on foot, whereas he and others known to both of us gad about quite a lot. He spoke of the alleged benefits of travel, especially the mind-broadening effect. I responded vaguely, sensing that there was an appropriate retort but being unable to give it.
The answer came to me as I was chopping onions. Incidentally, I bungled the culinary arrangements. The repast was a vegetable and lentil stew. Owing to either my intense pondering or my custom of dining alone, I failed to produce enough for the two of us, so made up the shortfall with cheese sandwiches. Happily, we are both somewhat bohemian in such matters, so neither of us cared much about my error. At the table, I imparted the fruits of my cogitation, as follows:
The Earth is turning on its axis, any given point on the equator moving at slightly over 1,000 miles per hour(mph). Owing to the latitude of my home, I don’t get full value from this, but do manage about 600mph. While it is busy behaving like a spinning top, our planet also clocks up about 580million miles a year, or 70,000mph in its orbit of the Sun, which in turn carts the Solar System around the Milky Way at about 500,000mph. On top of this, a recent survey suggested that our local group of galaxies is edging towards a larger cluster at a pretty brisk 1,000,000mph. I accept this figure pro tem, but realise that it will probably be revised before the ink I am using here is dry. The physicist Lev Landau remarked that cosmologists are often in error but never in doubt. To cap it all, we are told that the Universe is expanding at quite a lick. I will ignore this because I don’t believe anyone can give a reliable figure.
Along with everyone else, I am covering a vast distance at a minimum speed of nearly 1.6million mph, or 14,000million miles per year. My friend reckons that he drives about 12,000 miles in the same period of time and he never uses any form of transport other than his car. Therefore, he travels less than one millionth more than I do, for which dubious advantage he looks decidedly jaded and does a good deal of complaining about road stress. Also, his carbon footprint is quite heavy, while mine is about as light as a person can achieve without levitating.
With regard to the supposed mind-broadening effect of travel, I am bound to think of the intellectual giants of yesteryear, many of whom produced their outputs with very little gallivanting. My conclusion was that by moving around as much as I do with hardly any inconvenience, and I hope no great mental decay, I am getting a better deal than my friend is. I told him so and he said he didn’t understand me.
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