2010 Summation

December 31, 2010


The Earth has completed yet another revolution around the Sun, while our solar system continues its orbit around the centre of our galaxy. The Milky Way itself is currently orbiting the centre of gravity it shares with the other galaxies in our Local Group. While the galaxy groups in the Virgo Supercluster (that includes us) are speeding away from each other, the Andromeda galaxy is hurtling towards us at a rate of about 120km/second (or roughly 75 miles/second for you imperial types), meaning it will probably collide with us in another 4.5 billion years or so.  In 2010, it got  about 3,789,504,000 km closer.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

I thought about doing a “look back at 2010” thing for this post. But then… thinking about our Earth trundling along its path through the void, it hit me just how small we are. Not totally insignificant, as I’ve said before, but certainly a miniscule cog in an unimaginably huge machine.

Shoreline on Titan: a moon of Saturn

We get so wrapped up in our own lives, our own backyards. Sometimes it’s hard enough to think about things happening, really happening, on the other side of the world, let alone throughout the universe. This year, how far did a sea urchin crawl across the Abyssal Plain, 3-6km underwater? What did the sound of methane lakes lapping the shores of Titan sound like this year? And, somewhere out there, did some extraterrestrial maybe ponder similar questions? 

The funny thing about the New Year is that you could start the calendar from any point you want. Sure, there’s cultural signficance to having the New Year in the fall/winter time, but at any given moment the Earth has pretty well reached the same point in its orbit that it was at exactly a year ago. The human concept of a “year” is to a degree a cultural construct. The same system wouldn’t work on any other planet. Just ours.

Nevertheless, time rolls on…

Or does it? It is relative, a subjective phenomenon. And yet the gears of the machine keep turning. Maybe a few new machines even started up; it’s possible that we have new universes undergoing their own Big Bangs and budding off from ours.  Who knows? Maybe an infant universe celebrated its first year in 2010, and we’d never know.

Sure, I did stuff in 2010. Wrote a book, started a blog, met new people, lost people. I suppose my point is that when you take the cosmic perspective December 31st isn’t really an “end,” but a continuation. I see the years not as stepping stones, but as a river carrying us all: the Earth, the solar system, our neighbour galaxies, dark matter, everything.

Happy New Year, everyone.




  1. Reading your post, I got to thinking about the start of the New Year . . . all around the globe.

    Most countries, it seems, celebrate the start of the New Year tonight. Most of the world is ending the period referred to as “2010” and beginning the period referred to as “2011.”

    For the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Winter. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s Summer. But South Africans and North Americans both celebrate the beginning of the New Year on the same day.

    Despite the different seasons, most of humanity actually agreed on something!

    We don’t agree on religions, languages, etc., but if we turn on the TV tonight, we’ll see camera crews moving around the globe welcoming in the New Year “as the world turns.”

    It’s a start.

  2. […] post, 2010 Summation, got me thinking about the start of the New Year . . . all around the […]

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