6 or 16 thousand light years thick?

In the Meaning of Life, Eric sings "16 thousand light years thick" but on stage at the Hollywood Bowl on the weekend, he sang "6 thousand light years thick". Take this article into consideration, and I'm a bit lost: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/186976,milky-way-twice-as-thick-as-thought.html

What's going on? Can anyone help?

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astropython: O.K. now you folks are talking about something I can comment on. Eric wants to know why we astronomers can't make up their minds about the size of the Milky Way. Well it first must be realized the at Milky Way has a "fuzzy" boundary and giving a size to a fuzzy object is a bit tricky. Sort of like the perimeter of Britain, a piece of broccoli, or a cloud. It depends on how the measurement is done. The standard way of measuring a "fuzzy" boundary is to find the distance from the center where some quantity goes to 1/2 the central value (assuming that the center is defined as where that quantity is greatest). Are you with me ? O.K. the MW is a giant system, the "visible" parts of which are stars, gas and dust. So you have at least three ways to measure its boundaries. If you use the 1/2 rule with the stars only, the answer comes out to about 12 thousand L.Y. Since the 1/2 rule has stars outside of the "boundary", astronomers in the 1980's threw in 4 thousand L.Y. to account for this to give Eric the first number. Then the radio astronomers came along to accurately measure the hydrogen cloud shape of the galaxy and they came up with a much smaller value of six thousand L.Y. Being more "accurate", this got into the textbooks as the best guess. Then this year these guys in "Bruceland" measure the "hot" gas in the galaxy and get about 12 thousand L.Y. So now I have lost everyone, right ? There is a simple explanation of their "new" result. Where does the "hot" gas get its energy ? Yea, from the stars. So naturally the hot stuff should give an answer more similar to the star answer. So either way Eric wants to sing the song whether 6 thousand, 12 thousand, or 16 thousand L.Y., he will be scientifically correct. But three cheers to John for picking up on the difference. I heard the clip and with my failing hearing, I did not pick up on the "six". To be fair, Eric should probably use 12 thousand in future. It not only satisfies the 1/2 rule, but is about the average between 6 and 16. On a personal note, I played the old galaxy song in my astronomy classes every semester for nearly 35 years. It is nice to see it has made the reruns with Eric performing it again. Good show.

BroMaynardG at 6:24 am August 18

. . . is making my bowels rumble!

How big would the universe be if it were "Thick As A Brick"?
Da da da da da da da da . . . (to infinity, and beyond!)


gna42: I heard back from Eric himself about this... Always good to get the info from the source...


"...There was some smug website pulling apart all my original figures for the song (written circa 1981) so for the 2003 Tour (or maybe 2000) I "updated" them.
Now you tell me I was right all along!

Not sure where I got my figures originally but tell the bastards to make up their minds.



I agree. Let's just let Eric write the history, he seems to be better at it than the "experts" anyway...

Hope that clears a bit up for some folks!

Lemming_Of_The_BDA at 1:54 pm August 12

"but tell the bastards to make up their minds."
xD that certainly made my day!
*sigh* oh Eric

I brush my teeth everyday.
"Know what I mean? Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more! Say no more!"

johnalexwood at 4:05 pm August 12

And getting a reply to my post from Eric himself directly/indirectly certainly made my day!

BroMaynardG at 4:36 pm August 12

You Lucky, Lucky Bastard!

Proper little Eric's pet, aren't we?

You must 'ave slipped 'im a few shekels, eh?


johnalexwood at 5:44 pm August 17

Well yeah, but we haggled a bit first, obviously!

Lemming_Of_The_BDA at 4:11 pm August 12

Go Johnalexwood!!
*does the go Johnalexwood dance*

you've reached a new level of awesome by having an actual python reply t YOUR post!

I brush my teeth everyday.
"Know what I mean? Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more! Say no more!"

johnalexwood at 5:48 pm August 17

Yes, I'm pretty chuffed about that, I can tell you! I would love to meet Eric one day. He's the only Python I haven't met yet (apart from the dead one - I never met him, unfortunately).

Lemming_Of_The_BDA at 12:38 am August 18

VERY lucky!

bloody favouritism...
he responds to YOUR post plus you've met four pythons!
(though that'd be quite a bit of fainting for me)

I hope you do to... then you can write about it and I can read it and I won't have to get so close to pavement.

I brush my teeth everyday.
"Know what I mean? Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more! Say no more!"

gna42: (sorry for not emailing you back John, I've been swamped!)

I have a feeling that he just said 6 instead of 16. Heck, I can't remember much past breakfast at this point (and I'm 41). I didn't care what he said. To hear him perform it live was worth it's weight in gold...

"Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad..." and... "always look on the Bright Side of Life..."

pythongeek03: It probably was a performace fear that threw Eric. It's definately 16 light year thick. Come to think of it singing the galaxy song is not very easy when it comes to remembering all the numbers in all even thou it ryhmes. Fun Song thou :-)
Oh Your No Fun Anymore


Lemming_Of_The_BDA: when I went I was mouthing along to the words (hey at least I wasn't singing)
and I thought I got it wrong when I had 16,000 and he said 6,000 hmm I wonder why he changed it?

just look at :47-:51

I brush my teeth everyday.
"Know what I mean? Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more! Say no more!"