Ride a Slug to the Moon

Bob Niemeyer

YMCA summer camp was something that I looked forward to each summer when I was between the ages of eight and sixteen. I got to spent one week a summer at one of the four camps called Trickle Falls. There were six cabins there, one of which, my favorite, was closest to the creek.

Trickle Falls was my favorite camp of the four, clearly named for the small creek that ran between the cabins and onto the lake in the center of the YMCA facility. There was a trail that went from a small bridge that crossed over the creek and through the woods to a large clearing, around which were the various different buildings that we did our crafts in.

I enjoyed walking on that trail. Each time I took the trail there was something new to see in the details of the surroundings. In particular, there was a large stump that the trail was forced to wind around. It was at that stump that I saw the largest slugs that I have ever seen in my entire life.

Keeping that in mind, when the announcement of slug race was made, I went to the stump and got one of the largest slugs that I could find and got back the race as fast as I could. My thinking was that the larger the slug, the faster it could move.

The arena was a patch of dirt about twenty feet across. The counselors had drawn a circle exactly three feet in diameter with a small stick in the center. The goal was to place your slug in the center of the circle and let them go. The winner was the first slug to reach the outer ring.

I was in the second race against nine others. Needless to say, my slug was the largest. Even the counselors congratulated me for finding such a large slug. We placed the slugs in the center of the ring and the race was on. At first, the slugs did not seem to know what to do, but why would they. Then, as if they all had been told to take off, they all started to move away from the center of the circle. I, to this day do not know why the slugs started to move away from each other, they just did.

The winner was a slug about half the size of mine. It had made it to the outer circle in just over a minute and a half. My slug was clearly moving faster, but had decided, much to my chagrin, to not go in a straight line.

After the races, everybody threw their slugs into the bushes around the clearing. I just couldn’t do that to my racing slug, so I took him back home to the stump to let him go. The way back to the stump was well lit as the moon was nearly full and so bright that I did not need my flashlight to see where I was going. That was when I started to wonder about how long it would take for my racing slug to get to the moon. After all, my slug could go at the breakneck speed of one foot per minute.

The first question of my parents when I got home was; How far is the moon from the earth? At the time, the moon was about 230,000 to 240,000 miles from earth. Now days, we know the moon’s distance from earth down to within a fraction of an inch and that the moon is really rotating by some incredibly small amount. But in 1962, the 230,000 miles was good enough because I did not want my slug to travel any more than he needed to.

It took a few days of looking up stuff and asking my parents questions like how many feet are in a mile. Eventually, I did figure out how long my racing slug would need to get to the moon. Making that calculation is what sparked my interest in mathematics and ultimately in engineering.

It was also that calculation I did at the age of eight that has provided interest in many other aspects of the world around us. It is also that calculation that has caused me to question many of the claims about natural resources, the sun, the earth’s orbit, the earth’s oceans, and many other aspects of our environment that seem to have endless experts with opinions on the truth about this planet.

The truth about the environment and the realities of living in Oregon shall be my number one guide in all that I do as Governor of the State of Oregon. The above is just an example of what I can do to get to the truth or to expose those who will lie to get their way.

By the way, it would take 2130 years for my racing slug to get the moon.

Bob Niemeyer

June 6, 2013