"Galaxy Song" is an upbeat and somewhat nihilistic song from the movie Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, later released on the album Monty Python Sings. The lyrics include a number of astronomical facts, many of which are surprisingly accurate.
The lyrics run thus...
- Whenever life gets you down, Mrs Brown, and things seem hard or tough,
- And people are stupid, obnoxious, or daft, and you feel that you've had quite eno-huh-huh-huh-huh-hoooooooough.
- Just re-member that you're standing on a planet that's evolving, revolving at 900 miles an hour.
- It's orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it's reckoned, a Sun, that is the source of all our power.
- The Sun, and you and me, and all the stars that you can see, are moving at a million miles a day
- In the outer-spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour, of the Galaxy we call "The Milky Way".
- Our Galaxy itself contains a hundred-billion stars, it's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
- It bulges in the middle, 16,000 light years thick, but out by us, it's just 3,000 light years wide.
- We're 30,000 light years from Galactic Central Point, we go round every 200 million years,
- And our Galaxy is only one of millions of billions in the amazing and expanding universe!
- Small Instrumental
- The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding in all of the directions it can whizz,
- As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know, 12 million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is,
The final verse puts the song in a sort of Pythonic moral context:
- So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure, how amazingly unlikely is your birth
- And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, 'cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!
Within the limits imposed by creative licence, the figures are tolerably accurate. Eric Idle sings that the Earth is 'revolving at nine hundred miles an hour'; the actual figure (at the Equator) is just over 1,000. He gives the correct figure for the Earth's orbital speed, 19 miles (29 kilometres) per second, and - as They Might Be Giants would do later - notes that the Sun is 'the source of all our power'. In fact, geothermal power does not stem from the Sun, while tidal power derives mostly from the Moon; ultimately, however, the overwhelming proportion of human-generated power derived from fossil fuels and thence from photosynthetic plants makes this line a very good approximation to the truth. In other words, this is beside the point.
Idle's figures for the size of the Milky Way galaxy are roughly correct. He understates the speed at which the Sun orbits the 'galactic central point', but he gives a good estimate for the total time per orbit (about two hundred million years).
The second-to-last verse explains that the universe is expanding, and furthermore that the speed of light is the 'fastest speed there is'. Idle's estimate is a good one: 12 million miles per minute, versus the standard figure, about 11.18 million miles per minute.
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