Pen space travel? It’s a mug’s game.

I’d just finished a marvelous mug of tea at work and was looking blankly into a page full of code when I found myself (to the annoyance of my work colleagues) flicking the bottom of my mug with the spring mounted button at the base of my pen. Clink, clink, clink it went as it gradually (and I mean really gradually) made it’s way across my desk. Then it made me wonder… I wonder just how far this is moving it each time? So I found myself a tape measure and to my surprise discovered that this tiny little spring was actually moving it 3mm per impact (see figure 1).

I didn't actually perform the experiment on a notepad, I'm only using this in order to illustrate the distance travelled.

The force generated by the spring mounted pen button was able to push the mug 3mm (across a nicely varnised office desk).

With that in mind I was able to make the simple calculation of it taking me 536’488 flicks of my pen to push my mug a mile (providing, of course, the terrain remained favorable). However, the time taken to perform the flick, reset and flick again took me, on average, about 3 seconds. 536’488 flicks (or a mile) would take 18.6 days. Probably not the most efficient way to move a mug a mile up the road, but there you go.

And… if you’re really interested, it would take you 128’050’137’600 flicks of the pen to reach The Moon! Sound feasible? Well you better start soon because that would take you 12’181 years, but at least come 14’192AD you’d be able to have a lovely cup of tea on The Moon.