January 27, 2018

The Speed of Dark

A bit of background: while I was building my shed in my backyard (“the bahn” as I’ve described it to John L) a couple of autumns ago , one of the delights it afforded was to have NPR blaring from my boombox all day long on Saturdays & Sundays. Two of my especial favorites (besides Car Talk & Prairie Home Companion) are “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” – the news quiz, and “Says You” which is a word-focused quiz-cum-folderol chance for people with big vocabularies to show off.

Back in September sometime, in connection with a series of puzzlers called collectively “You’re so smart…”, a question had to do with the “speed of dark.” In fact I believe the question was “We all know the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second (or thereabouts) – what is the speed of dark.”

Well the official answer was a bit of a letdown, being something along the lines of “dark doesn’t have a speed, it doesn’t travel because it’s the absence of light.” Fair enough in terms of physics, I guess, but philosophically, this has put me over the edge. Here’s what I’ve come up with, and don’t be surprised if you read it coming out of Mortie’s mouth soon – “Dark doesn’t go anywhere, because it’s always everywhere; you just can’t see it when the light’s on.”

I am not happy with the notion that dark isn’t something of its own accord. It ain’t right – it goes against common sense. And besides, it also opens up a new vista on being afraid of the dark vs. nothing to be afraid of in the light, because… how to put this. Remember when we were scared of the dark as kids (I was anyway), and our Moms & Dads said “Don’t worry, there’s nothing there in the dark that isn’t there in the light.”

Well, that’s true. But the point isn’t that “nothing’s there” – the point is that when the light’s on, it’s STILL THERE but you can’t see it!!!

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. It all works for me. I’ve never once seen the dark when the sun is high but I know it’ll show up if I just stick around awhile.



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About Dean Quarrell

Mr. Quarrell was born in 1946, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He has so far survived various public schools, community college, university (his baccalaureate degree is in English but written in Latin), the US Air Force, and various employment, including 30 years in the software industry. He lives and writes in New Hampshire.


Writing, (noun & verb)