The Speed of Light Visualized Using Planets
We often come across the term “light-year” in the context of space travel. But what does it actually mean?
A light-year is the distance light travels in one year. At a speed of 186,000 miles/sec (300,000km/sec), light travels 5.88 trillion miles (9.46 trillion km) in a year—a distance well beyond immediate comprehension.
Scientists created the term light-year to measure astronomical distances beyond the confines of the Earth. And in the vastness of space, light photons, which can go around the Earth 7.5 times in just one second, seem slow.
The above animation from planetary scientist Dr.James O’Donoghue helps put the speed of light into a broader perspective while highlighting the vast distances between celestial bodies.
Light Speed: Fast, but Slow
The Moon is the nearest celestial body to Earth at 239,000 miles (384,400 km) away. A light photon emitted from Earth would get to the Moon in a mere 1.25 seconds.
But how does this compare to other celestial bodies in our solar system?
|Celestial Body||Distance at Closest Approach||Light Travel Time from Earth|
|Moon||0.38 million km||1.25 sec|
|Mars||54.6 million km||3 min|
|Sun||150 million km||8 min|
|Jupiter||588 million km||33 min|
|Saturn||1.2 billion km||67 min|
|Pluto||4.3 billion km||4 hrs|
If you watched the entire length of the above video, you probably saw how “slow” light is. The same photon of light that reached the Moon in a little over a second took three long minutes to reach Mars, the next planet beyond Earth in our solar system.
It takes light just over eight minutes to get from the Sun to Earth. This means that when we look at the Sun, we see it as it was eight minutes ago, and if it were to disappear suddenly, we wouldn’t realize it for eight whole minutes.
Therefore, how “fast” or “slow” light is depends on your perspective. To us Earth-dwelling humans, it feels instantaneous. But the vastness of the universe makes even light seem slow—and it travels at a speed that our spacecraft aren’t even close to matching.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Visualizing the Range of Electric Cars vs. Gas-Powered Cars
With range anxiety being a barrier to EV adoption, how far can an electric car go on one charge, and how do EV ranges compare with gas cars?
The Range of Electric Cars vs. Gas-Powered Cars
EV adoption has grown rapidly in recent years, but many prospective buyers still have doubts about electric car ranges.
In fact, 33% of new car buyers chose range anxiety—the concern about how far an EV can drive on a full charge—as their top inhibitor to purchasing electric cars in a survey conducted by EY.
So, how far can the average electric car go on one charge, and how does that compare with the typical range of gas-powered cars?
The Rise in EV Ranges
Thanks to improvements in battery technology, the average range of electric cars has more than doubled over the last decade, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
|Year||Avg. EV Range||Maximum EV Range|
|2010||79 miles (127 km)||N/A|
|2011||86 miles (138 km)||94 miles (151 km)|
|2012||99 miles (159 km)||265 miles (426 km)|
|2013||117 miles (188 km)||265 miles (426 km)|
|2014||130 miles (209 km)||265 miles (426 km)|
|2015||131 miles (211 km)||270 miles (435 km)|
|2016||145 miles (233 km)||315 miles (507 km)|
|2017||151 miles (243 km)||335 miles (539 km)|
|2018||189 miles (304 km)||335 miles (539 km)|
|2019||209 miles (336 km)||370 miles (595 km)|
|2020||210 miles (338 km)||402 miles (647 km)|
|2021||217 miles (349 km)||520 miles* (837 km)|
As of 2021, the average battery-powered EV could travel 217 miles (349 km) on a single charge. It represents a 44% increase from 151 miles (243 km) in 2017 and a 152% increase relative to a decade ago.
Despite the steady growth, EVs still fall short when compared to gas-powered cars. For example, in 2021, the median gas car range (on one full tank) in the U.S. was around 413 miles (664 km)—nearly double what the average EV would cover.
As automakers roll out new models, electric car ranges are likely to continue increasing and could soon match those of their gas-powered counterparts. It’s important to note that EV ranges can change depending on external conditions.
What Affects EV Ranges?
In theory, EV ranges depend on battery capacity and motor efficiency, but real-world results can vary based on several factors:
- Weather: At temperatures below 20℉ (-6.7℃), EVs can lose around 12% of their range, rising to 41% if heating is turned on inside the vehicle.
- Operating Conditions: Thanks to regenerative braking, EVs may extend their maximum range during city driving.
- Speed: When driving at high speeds, EV motors spin faster at a less efficient rate. This may result in range loss.
On the contrary, when driven at optimal temperatures of about 70℉ (21.5℃), EVs can exceed their rated range, according to an analysis by Geotab.
The 10 Longest-Range Electric Cars in America
Here are the 10 longest-range electric cars available in the U.S. as of 2022, based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) range estimates:
|Car||Range On One Full Charge||Estimated Base Price|
|Lucid Air||520 miles (837 km)||$170,500|
|Tesla Model S||405 miles (652 km)||$106,190|
|Tesla Model 3||358 miles (576 km)||$59,440|
|Mercedes EQS||350 miles (563 km)||$103,360|
|Tesla Model X||348 miles (560 km)||$122,440|
|Tesla Model Y||330 miles (531 km)||$67,440|
|Hummer EV||329 miles (529 km)||$110,295|
|BMW iX||324 miles (521 km)||$84,195|
|Ford F-150 Lightning||320 miles (515 km)||$74,169|
|Rivian R1S||316 miles (509 km)||$70,000|
Source: Car and Driver
The top-spec Lucid Air offers the highest range of any EV with a price tag of $170,500, followed by the Tesla Model S. But the Tesla Model 3 offers the most bang for your buck if range and price are the only two factors in consideration.
Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion
Our population will soon reach a new milestone—8 billion. These visualizations show where all those people are distributed around the world
Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion
At some point in late 2022, the eight billionth human being will enter the world, ushering in a new milestone for humanity.
In just 48 years, the world population has doubled in size, jumping from four to eight billion. Of course, humans are not equally spread throughout the planet, and countries take all shapes and sizes. The visualizations in this article aim to build context on how the eight billion people are distributed around the world.
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Now, here’s a look at each country’s population as of September 2022:
|Global Rank||Country/Region||Population (2022)|
|3||🇺🇸 United States||335,391,957|
|16||Democratic Republic of Congo||96,104,525|
|92||United Arab Emirates||10,164,747|
|97||Papua New Guinea||9,342,727|
|104||Hong Kong SAR||7,635,279|
|125||Central African Republic||5,025,077|
|136||Bosnia and Herzegovina||3,235,985|
|154||Trinidad and Tobago||1,409,672|
|173||Micronesia (Fed. States of)||561,300|
|188||Sao Tome and Principe||228,652|
|196||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||111,732|
|199||United States Virgin Islands||104,083|
|200||Antigua and Barbuda||99,773|
|202||Isle of Man||86,049|
|208||Northern Mariana Islands||58,336|
|211||Saint Kitts and Nevis||54,052|
|214||Turks and Caicos||39,924|
|220||British Virgin Islands||30,687|
|227||Wallis and Futuna||10,818|
|230||Saint Pierre & Miquelon||5,732|
Below are regional breakdowns of population.
Africa’s Population by Country
As of 2022, Africa’s total population stands at 1.4 billion people. Many of the countries with the fastest growth rates are located in Africa and by 2050, the population of the continent is expected to jump to 2.5 billion.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy. Based on current growth rates, Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, could even emerge as the world’s top megacity by the end of the century.
Africa has by far the lowest median age of any of the other continents.
Asia’s Population by Country
With 4.7 billion people in 2022, Asia is by far the world’s most populous region.
The continent is dominated by the two massive population centers of China and India. In 2023, a big shift will occur, with India surpassing China to become the world’s most populous country. China has held top spot for centuries, but the mismatch between the two countries’ growth rates made it only a matter of time before this milestone arrived.
Asia is a region of contrast when it comes to population growth. On the one end are countries like Singapore and Japan, which are actually shrinking. On the other, are Middle Eastern nations like Oman and Qatar, which have robust population growth rates of 4-5%.
Vietnam is on the cusp of becoming the 15th country to surpass the 100 million population mark.
Europe’s Population by Country
Europe’s population in 2022 is 750 million people—more than twice the size of the United States.
A century ago, Europe’s population was close to 30% of the world total. Today, that figure stands at less than 10%. This is, in part, due to population growth throughout other regions of the world.
More importantly though, Europe’s population is contracting in a number of places—Eastern Europe in particular. Many of the countries with the slowest growth rates are located in the Balkans and former Soviet Bloc countries.
Russia remains Europe’s largest country by population. Although the country’s landmass extends all the way across Asia, three-quarters of Russia’s people live on the European side of the country.
Germany is the second largest country in Europe, followed by the UK, France, and Italy.
Ukraine is the seventh largest population center in Europe, but it remains to be seen how the current conflict with Russia impacts the country’s long-term population prospects.
North America’s Population by Country
North America’s population is 602 million people as of 2022.
The continent is dominated by the United States, which makes up more than half of the total population. America’s population is still growing modestly (by global standards), but perhaps more interesting are the internal migration patterns that are occurring. States like Texas and Florida are seeing an influx from other states.
Canada has one of the highest population growth rates of major developed economies thanks to international migration.
Mexico is currently the 10th most populous country, but will eventually be bumped from the top 10 list by fast-growing African nations.
South America’s Population by Country
The population of South America in 2022 is 439 million. Brazil makes up nearly half of that total.
Sometime this decade, Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, will become the region’s fifth megacity (which is defined as having a population of 10 million or more). São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Lima are South America’s current megacities.
Oceania’s Population by Country
The population of the Oceania region is 44 million people—just slightly higher than the population of California.
Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea make up the lion’s share of the population of this region.
Interestingly, many of the smallest countries by population can also be found in this region.
When Will Earth’s Population Hit 9 Billion?
The next global population milestone—nine billion—will likely be hit sometime in the 2030s.
In fact, Earth’s population is expected to continue growing until it hits a peak at some point in the 2080s—possibly over the 10 billion mark.
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