What’s Faster?

“Which one do you reckon is faster?”  Cousin Terrence posed the question, and despite the interposition of the Internet I thought I could spy the mischief in his eyes.  He’s like that.

It’s one of those questions that inspires some thought, especially considering where it’s coming from.  Now, which one would go faster — jet or bike?  I’m guessing from the age, tailhook, and design that might be a fighter off a carrier — an F4, maybe?  (Or, I suppose if I take the time to read the name on the tail, more likely it’s an A4, a Skyhawk.)  I’m equally unskilled at identifying motorcycles, but that looks to my untutored eye like an Indian Chief, all kitted out for road trips.

Some would say that the answer to this ought to be a simple one, but let’s consider the character of the fellow doing the asking.  He’s a tricksy one, hobbitses, yesss.

Now, jets usually go faster than motorcycles, as a general rule, but I’ve seen a bike move along at a pretty fair clip. Then too, jets use a fair amount more fuel per mile, and we’d have to figure they’d spend a lot of time at the gas pump, so we ought to factor that in.  Maintenance too; jets are complicated machines with forty thousand moving parts, each let out to the lowest bidder.  So on aggregate, I guess the bike might log more miles each day at that.

On the other hand, might do to take a different approach entirely.  For instance, Scientific American tells me the world spins at about a thousand miles an hour, and orbits around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour more.  Our galaxy is moving at about 200,000 MPH toward something called the “Great Attractor”, and we’re zipping along inside the galaxy as well, which rotates around its core every hundred million years — a long time, maybe, but it’s a very long way to go.  So a sufficiently well-educated fellow might say that each of these two vehicles is cruising along at about Mach 300, give or take, and any piddling little shifts one way or the other due to the application of an accelerator doesn’t mean much at all in the big scheme of things.

Now, that’s fine, so far as it goes.  But instead of a college graduate let’s pick someone clever, say that annoying twelve year old who just won his science fair and always cleans up at Monopoly.  He might announce that speed is based on distance traveled over time, and if you pick any given two nights these two would be in the same place they were in the morning, which would make the average speed of each about zero. We all know this is wrong, but it’s tough to find the hole in the logic, which is part of what makes these kids annoying.  (I should know; I was one.  Got told to shut up a lot, as I recall.  Then I got bigger, and what with one thing and another people generally don’t tell me that these days.)

But this is one of the tough questions, and we should probably leave these to the deep thinkers instead of the merely clever or overeducated.  A truly deep thinker, like one sitting to the side of the wood stove in a country store, for instance.  Picture him; he’s white-haired and weatherbeaten, bit of hair on his chin and a moustache that curls up at the ends.  I think what he’d do is, he’d wait for everyone else to weigh in first, and only then (perhaps first spitting out his tobacco juice by way of punctuation) he’d observe, “Wa’al, I guess the one not moored in concrete might have a dight more pickup.”

Fellows like these bear watching.

(Some of you saw this coming.  That means you bear watching too, and don’t you forget it.)


Image Credit:  Terrence R. Perrigo, Proud Deplorable, somewhere in upstate New York

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