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What it would look like to travel around the Earth at the speed of light

What it would look like to travel around the Earth at the speed of light

Without giving too much away we can say it's blurry, for starters.

Imagine circumnavigating the globe in less time than it takes to snap your fingers.

That’s what one YouTube video has explored - showing us what it would look like to travel around the Earth at the speed of light.

The concept, while purely theoretical, offers a glimpse into the extreme velocities that light achieves and what travel might be like if that speed was ever achievable.

The speed of light, clocking in at a staggering 299,792,458 metres per second, is a figure that’s hard to wrap your head around.

According to the video, posted by the Airplane Mode YouTube channel, traveling at this rate would allow you to complete a full orbit around our planet in just 0.13 seconds.

The journey starts in New York and zooms west across the United States, over the Pacific Ocean, skimming the southern tip of Australia, crossing the Indian Ocean, flying over Zimbabwe and West Africa, and then returning to New York from the east.

While you were thinking the video might show you something mind-boggling - you’d be wrong.

The depiction in the Airplane Mode video of the journey is actually surprisingly underwhelming.

At the speed of light, the entire trip is nothing short of a quick flash.

As the music on the video builds to a crescendo just before you’re slung to the far corners of the Earth, before you know it, you're back in New York almost instantaneously. No time to register any landmarks or locations along the way - nothing.

The video cleverly demonstrates that at such incredible speeds our usual enjoyment of travel and sightseeing would be non-existent.

To offer some form of entertainment - since a speed-of-light journey around the Earth doesn’t really offer you anything other than “oh” - the video also shows the same route at the speed of sound, which is a much, much slower speed of about 343 metres per second.

The trajectory if you travelled around the Earth at the speed of light.
Airplane Mode/YouTube

This speed, although much slower compared with light, is still significantly faster than conventional modes of travel. Here, the journey feels akin to viewing the world from a high-speed aircraft or spaceship.

While you do get to see some landscapes and oceans, the experience is still a rapid blur, far from anything you would have experienced in a plane.

Although we’re far from achieving such velocities in real-world travel, the video is nevertheless an interesting exploration of physics and the concept of time. And it might make you realise a link between how we perceive our surroundings and the speed at which we move through them.

Featured Image Credit: Credit: Airplane Mode/YouTube/CHUNYIP WONG/Getty