The words of Mercury are harsh...
March 12, 2019 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Introducing the Whirly Dirly Corollary. Correcting the record about which planet is closest to Earth. (SLYT, science!)
posted by loquacious (13 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
MATH! dun dun dun dun dun AH-AHHHHH!

[sung to the tune of Queen's Flash Gordon Theme]
posted by Jon_Evil at 2:41 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]

If you think of the arc from the Earth through the Sun and out to any planet's orbit, you'll see that every planet spends more time (more of its orbit) further from the Earth than the Sun than closer to it. So the average distance from the any planet to the Earth is longer than the average distance from the Earth to the Sun. Moreover the smaller a planet's orbit, the less time it spends further away from you than closer. So the smaller the orbit of a planet, the closer it is to you on average (but still further than the Sun).
posted by sjswitzer at 2:51 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]

posted by seanmpuckett at 3:23 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]

Next they'll try to prove that the earth isn't the center of universe. These heathens will stop at nothing. Nothing!
posted by oddman at 3:46 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

But if you consider only the planetary orbits, and not their actual position in time, then it's still Venus. Right? Hmmm?

And Pluto is a planet damnit!
posted by Splunge at 3:58 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

And Pluto is a planet damnit!

The papier-mache work of two of my Grade 3 classmates one of whom was named Sean something shall not have been in vain!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:27 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]

So, in a nutshell, Mercury is on average closer to all the other planets because, basically, when the any two planets (not including Mercury) are on opposite sides of the sun, they are REALLY, REALLY far away from each other, which more than exceeds their relative proximity when they are on the same side of the sun. Except for Mercury, because when it’s on the opposite side of the sun, it’s not nearly so far away.

posted by darkstar at 6:43 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]

Pluto is still a planet, just a dwarf planet. It is happier roaming the outer solar system, and our classification system, amongst its own kind. As Jove intended.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:26 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]

Now do it with Delta-v for hohmann transfers.
posted by OldReliable at 2:17 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

I think I just found a new bar bet; also wonder if it will make it onto Jeopardy. I expect not as it requires some explanation.
posted by TedW at 5:03 AM on March 13

So a clock which gains a minute a day gives less accurate time than a stopped clock which is right twice a day.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:49 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]

That's actually really cool and a great post. It feels like its something there should be an XKCD comic about, given it touches on XKCD's sweet-spot intersection of maths, astronomy/space/orbital mechanics, common misunderstandings, and quirky facts, but there doesn't seem to be one I can remember! So even better.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:50 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

Huh, really neat. I'm going to guess the tables of values other people have made are just taking the average of the closest and farthest points.
posted by lucidium at 10:57 AM on March 13

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