Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gravitational forces

It is well known that gravitational interaction between two bodies is rather straightforward, but between three bodies can get tricky.

My daughter was moaning a bit this morning at 4:00 AM. My wife used her super mommy skills to determine, from no less than 30 feet away, that she was sick. I used my super husband skills and translated "I'll just listen at the door" to mean "Expect a tiny guest in our bed".

Back to gravity. My wife and I have worked out a system between our two masses where we can sleep for months in the same queen sized bed and not touch each other.1 Putting a third body in there throws off that equilibrium.

My mass being much larger than my wife's, I create a larger gravitational well in the bed. Lately, my wife has been trying to close that gap (she's pregnant) but still she is no match for my mighty red giant status. This means that within roughly three seconds of entering our solar system, my daughter finds herself in a very close orbit around her daddy.2

We recently house sat for some friends and they had a king size bed. This makes the potential average distance between bodies larger (plus) but due to the pillow top mattress, my gravitational well was more pronounced (minus). The net result was a daughter in orbit (due to the deeper well) but also horizontal (due to the extra room).

Having decided to add another planet to our system, I am excited to see how gravity works amongst four bodies.

1. No, not really.
2. The danger of crashing into the larger of two suns is probably why our earth is not as awesome as Tatooine, with its binary star dual suns.


Jerkolas said...

Any references to Tatooine get a comment from me.

Amy said...

I try to never ever have children in my bed while I'm attempting to sleep. It's bad for everyone.