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Visualizing the Speed of Light (Fast, but Slow)

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Visualizing the Speed of Light

With the flip of a switch, your room can be instantenously flooded with brightness.

In fact, there is no noticeable lag effect at all.

That’s because emitted photons travel at 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second, meaning it takes only 1/500,000th of a second for light to reach even the furthest part of an ordinary room. And, if it could go through the wall, it would orbit the entire planet 7.5 times in just one second.

Light Speed is Fast…

In our every day experiences, we never see light as having to “take time” to do anything. It’s inconceivably fast, brightening up everything in its path in an instant — and with a few odd caveats, scientists believe light speed to be the fastest-known achievable pace in the universe.

But what if we get out of our bubble, and look at light from outside the confines of life on Earth?

Today’s animation, which comes from planetary scientist Dr. James O’Donoghue, helps visualize the speed of light in a broader context. It helps remind us of the mechanics of this incredible phenomenon, while also highlighting the vast distances between celestial bodies — even in our small and insignificant corner of the solar system.

Light Speed is Slow…

Once a photon is sent into the vast abyss, suddenly the fastest possible speed seems somewhat pedestrian.

  • Moon: It takes about 1.255 seconds for light to get from Earth to the moon.
  • Mars: Mars is about 150x further than the moon — about 40 million miles (54.6 million km) in the closest approach — so it takes 3 minutes to get there from Earth.
  • Sun: The sun is 93 million miles (150 million km) away, meaning it takes 8 minutes to see its light.

Let that sink in for a moment: the sun could explode right now, and we wouldn’t even know about it for eight long minutes.

Going Further, Taking Longer

If it takes light a few minutes to get to the closest planets, how long does it take for light to travel further away from Earth?

  • Jupiter: The largest planet is 629 million km away when it’s closest, taking light about 35 minutes.
  • Saturn: The ringed planet is about as twice as far as Jupiter, taking light 71 minutes.
  • Pluto: It takes about 5.5 hours for light to go from Earth to the dwarf planet.
  • Alpha Centauri: The nearest star system is 4.3 light years away, or 25 trillion miles (40 trillion km).
  • Visible stars: The average distance to the 300 brightest stars in the sky is about 347 light years.

If you really want to get the feeling of how “slow” light really is, watch the below video and journey from the sun to Jupiter. It’s done in real-time, so it takes about 43 minutes:

So while light obviously travels at a ludicrous speed, it really depends on your vantage point.

On Earth, light is instantaneous – but anywhere else in the universe, it’s pretty inadequate for getting anywhere far (especially in contrast to the average human lifespan).

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Politics

U.S. Presidential Voting History from 1976-2020 (Animated Map)

With this map of U.S. presidential voting history by state, discover patterns that have emerged over the last twelve elections.

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Voting History

U.S. Presidential Voting History by State

After a tumultuous election, all states have now certified their 2020 presidential voting results. Which states changed party allegiance, and how do the results compare to previous years?

In this graphic, we use data from the U.S. National Archives and the MIT Election Data and Science Lab to show U.S. presidential voting history by state since 1976.

Note: this post has been updated on January 19, 2021 to reflect the latest data.

Each State’s Winning Party

To calculate the winning ratio, we divided the votes for the state’s winning party by the total number of state votes. Here’s another look at the same data, visualized in a different way.

Voting History

This graphic was inspired by this Reddit post.

As the voting history shows, some states—such as Alaska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—have consistently supported the Republican Party. On the other hand, Hawaii, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia have been Democrat strongholds for many decades.

The District of Columbia (D.C.) is a federal district, and is not part of any U.S. State. Its population is urban and has a large percentage of Black and college-educated citizens, all of which are groups that tend to identify as Democrat.

Swing states typically see a close contest between Democrats and Republicans. For example, Florida’s average margin of victory for presidential candidates has been just 2.7% since 1996. It’s often seen as a key battleground, and for good reason: the state has 29 electoral college votes, meaning it has a high weighting in the final outcome.

Memorable Election Years

Within U.S. presidential voting history, some election results stand out more than others. In 1984, President Reagan was re-elected in a landslide victory, winning 49 out of 50 states. The remarkable win has been credited to the economic recovery during Reagan’s first term, Reagan’s charisma, and voters’ opposition to the Democrat’s planned tax increases.

In 1992, self-made Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran as a third-party candidate. He captured almost 19% of the popular vote, the highest percentage of any third-party presidential candidate in over 80 years. While he gained support from those looking for a change from traditional party politics, Bill Clinton ultimately went on to win the election.

Most recently, the 2020 election had a record voter turnout, with 66.3% of the eligible population casting a ballot. There was also a record number of mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to widespread allegations of voter fraud, with President Trump and his allies filing 62 lawsuits seeking to overturn election results. In the end, 61 of the lawsuits were defeated and congress confirmed Joe Biden’s victory.

Voting History of Swing States

Both Trump and Biden focused on battleground states in 2020, but where were they successful? Here are nine of the swing states, and their voting history over the last two elections.

 2020 Winning Ratio2020 Margin of Victory2016 Winning Ratio2016 Margin of Victory
Arizona49.4% Democrat0.31%48.7% Republican3.60%
Florida51.2% Republican3.36%49.0% Republican1.20%
Georgia49.5% Democrat0.24%50.8% Republican5.20%
Iowa53.2% Republican8.20%51.2% Republican9.40%
Michigan50.6% Democrat2.78%47.5% Republican0.20%
North Carolina50.1% Republican1.35%49.8% Republican3.60%
Ohio53.3% Republican8.03%51.7% Republican8.10%
Pennsylvania50.0% Democrat1.16%48.9% Republican0.70%
Wisconsin49.5% Democrat0.63%47.2% Republican0.70%

The Republican party won four of the swing states in 2020, including Florida. However, 2020 was the first year since 1964 that the candidate who won Florida did not go on to win the election.

Five of the states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—flipped allegiance to the Democrats. In Georgia, the margin of victory was as small as 0.24% or about 12,000 votes. Ultimately, winning over these states helped lead to a Biden victory.

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Business

Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021

Fewer than 12% of global billionaires are women, but they still hold massive amounts of wealth. Who are the 50 richest women in the world?

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Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

According to a recent census by Wealth-X, 11.9% of global billionaires are women. Even at such a minority share, this group still holds massive amounts of wealth.

Using a real-time list of billionaires from Forbes, we examine the net worth of the 50 richest women in the world and which country they’re from.

Where are the World’s Richest Women?

The richest woman in the world, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and family own 33% of stock in L’Oréal S.A., a French personal care brand. She is also the granddaughter of its founder.

In April 2019, L’Oréal and the Bettencourt Meyers family pledged $226 million (€200 million) towards the repair of the Notre Dame cathedral after its devastating fire.

Following closely behind is Alice Walton of the Walmart empire—also the world’s richest family. Together with her brothers, they own over 50% of the company’s shares. That’s a pretty tidy sum, considering Walmart raked in $524 billion in revenues in their 2020 fiscal year.

Other family ties among the richest women in the world include Jacqueline Mars and her four granddaughters, heiresses to a slice of the Mars Inc. fortune in candy and pet food—and all of them make this list.

RankNameNet Worth ($B)Country
#1Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family$71.4🇫🇷 France
#2Alice Walton$68.0🇺🇸 United States
#3MacKenzie Scott$54.9🇺🇸 United States
#4Julia Koch & family$44.9🇺🇸 United States
#5Yang Huiyan & family$31.4🇨🇳 China
#6Jacqueline Mars$28.9🇺🇸 United States
#7Susanne Klatten$25.8🇩🇪 Germany
#8Zhong Huijuan$23.5🇨🇳 China
#9Laurene Powell Jobs & family$22.1🇺🇸 United States
#10Iris Fontbona & family$21.0🇨🇱 Chile
#11Zhou Qunfei & family$18.6🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#12Fan Hongwei & family$17.9🇨🇳 China
#13Gina Rinehart$17.4🇦🇺 Australia
#14Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & family$17.1🇳🇱 Netherlands
#15Wu Yajun$16.3🇨🇳 China
#16Abigail Johnson$15.0🇺🇸 United States
#17Kirsten Rausing$13.5🇸🇪 Sweden
#18Kwong Siu-hing$13.0🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#19Lu Zhongfang$12.7🇨🇳 China
#20Wang Laichun$12.7🇨🇳 China
#21Cheng Xue$10.8🇨🇳 China
#22Massimiliana Landini Aleotti & family$10.6🇮🇹 Italy
#23Denise Coates$9.9🇬🇧 United Kingdom
#24Lam Wai Ying$9.1🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#25Ann Walton Kroenke$9.1🇺🇸 United States
#26Savitri Jindal & family$8.7🇮🇳 India
#27Nancy Walton Laurie$8.2🇺🇸 United States
#28Blair Parry-Okeden$8.2🇺🇸 United States
#29Diane Hendricks$8.0🇺🇸 United States
#30Christy Walton$7.8🇺🇸 United States
#31Zhao Yan$7.8🇨🇳 China
#32Zeng Fangqin$7.6🇨🇳 China
#33Magdalena Martullo-Blocher$7.5🇨🇭 Switzerland
#34Rahel Blocher$7.4🇨🇭 Switzerland
#35Marie-Hélène Habert$7.2🇫🇷 France
#36Pamela Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#37Victoria Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#38Valerie Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#39Marijke Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#40Sandra Ortega Mera$7.1🇪🇸 Spain
#41Antonia Ax:son Johnson & family$7.0🇸🇪 Sweden
#42Sofie Kirk Kristiansen$6.9🇩🇰 Denmark
#43Agnete Kirk Thinggaard$6.9🇩🇰 Denmark
#44Li Haiyan$6.7🇨🇳 China
#45Ronda Stryker$6.6🇺🇸 United States
#46Marie Besnier Beauvalot$6.3🇫🇷 France
#47Zheng Shuliang & family$6.2🇨🇳 China
#48Meg Whitman$5.8🇺🇸 United States
#49Chan Laiwa & family$5.8🇨🇳 China
#50Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala & family$5.8🇲🇽 Mexico

All data as of January 15, 2021 (9AM PST)

MacKenzie Scott, ranked #3 on the list, was heavily involved in the early days of turning Amazon into an e-commerce behemoth. She was involved in areas from bookkeeping and accounts to negotiating the company’s first freight contract. Her high-profile divorce from Jeff Bezos captured the headlines, notably because she gained control over 4% of Amazon’s outstanding shares.

The total value of these shares? An eye-watering $38.3 billion—propelling her to the status of one of America’s richest people.

However, MacKenzie Scott has more altruistic ventures in mind for this wealth. In 2020, she gave away $5.8 billion towards causes such as climate change and racial equality in just four months, and is a signatory on the Giving Pledge.

[Scott’s near $6 billion donation has] to be one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual.

—Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Looking towards the East, Yang Huiyan became the richest woman in Asia after inheriting 70% of shares in the property development company Country Garden Holdings. The company went public in 2007, raising $1.6 billion in its IPO—an amount comparable to Google’s IPO in 2004.

To aid frontline health workers during the pandemic, Country Garden Holdings set up robotic, automated buffet stations to safely serve medical staff in Wuhan, China.

Giving Generously

While the 50 richest women in the world have certainly made progress, the overall tier of billionaires is still very much a boys’ club. One thing that also factors into this could be the way this wealth is spent.

As many female billionaires inherited their wealth, a large share are more inclined to contribute to charitable causes where they can use their money to make an impact. What percentage of billionaires by gender have contributed at least $1 million in donations over the past five years?

Made $1mm in donations over last 5 years (%)

Source of wealth👩 Female philanthropists👨 Male philanthropists
Inherited68%5%
Inherited/Self-made20%28%
Self-made12%67%

Source: Wealth-X

Meanwhile, male billionaires are more likely to donate to charity if they built the wealth themselves—and many companies that fall into this category certainly stepped up during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

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