An Easier Way to Get Around

By Julianne Dalcanton | January 9, 2009 2:24 pm

Samuel Arbesman (who may have a tad too much time on his hands) has developed a transit system for the Milky Way:

Milky Way Transit Authority Map

It’s a cute idea, but I have some issues. The biggest is differential rotation. In much of the Milky Way, the tangential velocity is constant (i.e. in km/s). However, this means that the inner parts of the galaxy are rotating faster (in degrees per second), such that the whole transit system will be winding up, making more and more unnecessary trips around the center in the inner regions — this is the classic “winding problem” of spiral arm theory. If you fight this by making your transit lines fixed, then they’ll go out of phase with the spiral arms, leaving a transit system that serves the thinly populated rural regions of the galaxy, with no regular service to the dense urban areas. Finally, there are useful, well-populated regions above and below the plane of the Milky Way disk, so there needs to be a three dimensional component to the transit systems, definitely requiring some sort of bus-rail-submarine link plan.

But, we’ve got a infrastructure-based stimulus package coming up, so maybe we’ll get lucky.

  • greg

    Remind me never to take the green line in past centaurus. I doubt that there will be many trains leaving from the black hole in the galactic center.

  • Freiddie

    Wow, that’s one of the most creative things I’ve seen today. Finally, something that cheered me up.

  • Electric Dragon

    NF Stovold’s “Interstellar Mornington Crescent: Rules (10th edn).” (which fell through a timewarp from the 25th century) states that globular clusters are wild and that the Crab Nebula is considered to be in Nid (unless approached from Galactic North, obviously).

    (See also

  • Serdar

    Unfortunately, the earth is scheduled to be demolished to make way for one of these transit bypasses.

    … What do you mean, you didn’t know? The plans have been on display for some time now. Apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.

  • http://deleted Anaconda

    Actually, it’s a lot closer to the truth than one might initially suspect.

    It also looks like a funky circuit board at first glance. An electrical circuit board make up of interstellar Birkeland currents. Yes, electrical currents, much more powerful than gravity and doesn’t need all the theoretical “riders” that are never seen and never put money in the fair box. Or do they?

  • ts

    I think Japan’s public transit system is superior. Much cheaper as well.

  • Tod Lauer

    Well, it looks very convenient and all, but I’m wondering if it will really get people out of their private starships…

  • Tristram Brelstaff

    Ah! Now I understand the time dilation effects that I have observed while waiting for Circle Line trains at Paddington: they must be due to the presence of the supermassive black hole at nearby Edgeware Road.

  • Sili


    I’d not like to go around the galaxy this way, though.

    How long before this shows up on ?

  • Peter Coles

    Electric dragon fails to realise that the Crab Nebula must always be in Nid, because the elimation of Junkin’s Progression from the rules in the 22nd Century rules out any move that could lead to a southerly vertical transposition for the type needed to approach from Galactic North. Of Huguenot’s Gamble could be deployed but this is also disallowed by the special rulings on crosshatching which always apply when globular clusters are wild.

    I hope this clarifies the situation.

  • Brian Mingus

    The Interplanetary Transport Network is much cooler than this.

    I would like to see the same math applied to the entire Milky Way :-)

  • zachb

    densely populated with stars doesn’t necessarily mean densely populated with life, right?

  • Brian Mingus

    Define dense;-)

  • Aaron F.

    Peter Coles — I’m afraid I don’t follow your reasoning. What’s to stop a player from reaching Omega Centauri and then immediately invoking Ee-tah’s rule, leaving her with a straight shot from Hawking’s Chair to the Crab Nebula from the North?

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport


    What you identified as a bug in this system is actually a
    feature for it means that parts of it will have to be reconstructed every few million years. A continuous money for Halliburton Galactic as decreed by Lord Cheney.

  • Julianne

    Zachb — unless we’re expecting species developing in interstellar gas and dust, then life should cluster with stars.

    And I’ve been waiting for a comment by Fermi-Walker Public Transport! You’ve got to be an expert on this sort of system, right?

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport

    Yep, the secret in these public transport systems is not to let the the passenger’s reference frame be affected by too much curvature for stretched-out passengers will not be repeat customers.

  • Peter Coles

    Aaron F,

    Differential rotation makes any such move illegal unless of course the player uses Huguenot’s gamble. This is a very risky move and is usually considered illegal by referees in the Northern (Galactic) hemisphere. In the South, players often get away with it as blind-side manoeuvres are treated with some indulgence.

    It’s a good point though. I think we’ll have to call for a ruling on this one…


  • Cannonball Jones

    Differential rotation may pose something of a problem but if we can manage to dig up Leith Walk in Edinburgh to get a tram line installed without too many casualties I’m sure we can get around pesky cosmological obstacles. Are there mobs drunken gorillas wandering through the Milky Way threatening to bottle the Interstellar Engineering Corp as they try to lay down the lines? I think not…

  • w.e.d.

    Wait – which one’s the monorail? I want to ride up front with the pilot!

  • Marshall Eubanks

    Samuel Arbesman (who may have a tad too much time on his hands)

    Not nearly as much as you would need to actually take one of these lines.

  • GrassyNoel

    You sound like someone who moves to live next to an airport and then complains about the noise :-)

  • Tian

    I’m looking forward to meeting lots of other creatures. Hope my life won’t be like a mayfly compared to the whole trip to Eagle Nebula. How is this stuff going to get there if I can’t carry my bags when we get there?


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