This classic trip is used as a benchmark for what’s humanly possible.
For most of human history, we’ve been limited by our machines, what if we weren’t…
When Christopher Columbus made his journey to the Americas (Not technically New York to London), he was able to complete a transatlantic journey in 2 months. That equates to a speed of around 4-5 miles an hour.
By the time of Ben Franklin, that time had been cut to 6 weeks. Better, but still a long time.
By the 19th century, steamships cut that time to approximately 16 days, a massive improvement over sailing. But we definitely could do better. And you can see that the journey time kept improving. In 20th century however, a new form of transportation took off, (no pun intended).
Though ocean-liners reigned king in 1903, little did they know that a flight by the Wright Brothers would change everything.
A couple of decades later Charles Lindbergh’s famous transatlantic flight took merely 33.5 hours. One decade later, Seaplanes cut that time down to 20 hours, and in another decade that time was cut to 15 hours. A large improvement over the ocean-liners of their time.
1958 — A de Havilland Comet left New York for London, and made the journey in 6 hours and 12 minutes, traveling at a top speed of 640 mph. A far cry from Christopher Columbus’s 2 month journey.
And time is still respectable today. A non-stop flight from New York to London is scheduled for around 6h 55m with a built in time buffer if anything goes wrong.
But there was one last effort to shorten this journey. Only two commercial airliners ever flew it. It was a magical experience for those who had the opportunity to fly in it.
The Concorde, a supersonic jetliner capable of traversing the Atlantic is just around 3.5 hours, at a speed of Mach 2.0.
You could technically have lunch in London, and breakfast in New York, because you would arrive 2 hours before you left (Due to the time difference).
But this isn’t nearly at the limit of what the human body is capable of…
The International Space Station (ISS) travels around the globe every 92 minutes. The distance from New York to London is 3,459 miles. The circumference of the Earth is 24,901 miles.
(3,459 mi/24,901 mi)* 92 minutes = ~12.8 minutes
Imagine a flight from New York to London in 12.8 minutes.
But wait, that’s actually cheating. The ISS is already traveling at close to 5 miles a second.
“It’s not the fall that kills you. It’s the landing. So take a leap of faith and never land.”
The landing really means acceleration and deceleration. If you want to stop in London to get some fish and chips, imagine running into a wall at 5 miles a second, yeah I bet you can’t.
Let’s further explore the limits of the human body.
NASA did a series of tests on the human body to understand the affects of G-forces (a measure of acceleration relative to the earth’s gravity) on the human body. Here’s a link.
Taking a look at the graph, we can extrapolate to an 8 hour duration of 3.5Gs (Don’t worry you’ll be knocked out). But how long would it take you to traverse the distance between New York and London?
First the resultant G forces would be 3.5G. Meaning that we’ll have less to work with.
Not bad, 3.35410 Gs to work with. Next we need to accelerate half way there and decelerate half way there, because we’ll start at a stand-still and then stop at a stand-still. The equation is symmetric.
So it’s a simple double integral from acceleration to get position:
411.318 seconds is only half way there. So multiply by 2 and convert to minutes and you get 13.7106 minutes.
Not bad. You can technically get from New York to London from 0 m/s to 0 m/s in around 14 minutes.
Yeah, 14 minutes…