Black Holes & Transportations: The Science of Getting Around London

Commuting, I discovered, does strange things to the space – time continuum. I don’t just mean the wibbly wobbly relationship between the timetable and when trains actually turn up. No, we’re talking proper time travel here. When we lived in the Village, the train to London lasted 30mins, but somehow my journey always took 2 hours.  It was like travelling in some weird, London Midland shaped Tardis.

Now that we’re back in London, I’m even more convinced physicists are missing a trick. Why go to all the hassle and expense of building giant telescopes or putting people in space? Just spend a couple of hours on the Tube and you’ll have proved a host of scientific theories:-

Wormholes

Connections from one part of the Universe to another. In principle, it’s possible to travel through them, but you’ll probably be crushed. Pretty much describes the Central Line most mornings.

Chaos Theory

The science of surprises where even small changes in the status quo have drastic effects overall.  ‘Nuf said really. Nearly 4m people use London Underground every day and almost all of them know full well the chaotic consequences for their commute if just one tube driver forgets to set his alarm in the morning.

Expansion of the Universe

Apparently, the universe is getting bigger. Not in the sense of things simply moving further apart (that would be way too easy: after all, this is theoretical physics we’re talking here!), rather the distance between objects is increasing even though these objects haven’t actually moved. Impossible? How many times have you been on a packed tube train with barely an inch to move when some 6ft, 16 stone oaf manages to fit himself into that millimeter gap you were fiercely defending. Clearly metric expansion isn’t so preposterous after all.

Time Dilation

London moves fast, very fast. If Einstein is to be believed, the faster you go, the more time slows down – which must explain why most Londoners consider waiting 5 minutes for the next tube on a par with eternity in Hell. Back in the Village, real eternal damnation was far more likely : if I’d only 5 mins until the next train, I’d half kill myself running for the platform for fear of missing it.

Black Holes

Whilst scientists have as near-as-dammit proved the existence of black holes, they’re still struggling to find one.  Clearly someone needs to give a few NASA folk an Oyster Card. All Londoners know how they suck everything out of your bank balance and no matter how much money you put on them, it always disappears without trace.

Then again, much scientific research nowadays seems to involve propelling objects through tunnels deep underground, usually with unreliable results. . .

Maybe science has been taking lessons from the Tube after all.

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