I find it hard to believe, with the overriding push to have more appropriate and accurate terminology anymore, that this term not only still remains, but it’s being ignored wholesale despite its inherent bias, so I’m taking to this (admittedly infinitesimal) soapbox to start the ball rolling. Because it’s high time we eradicated the term “light year” in favor of a more appropriate term.
It’s simple: “light year” is a unit of distance defined as how far light travels in a year, roughly equivalent to 9.46 trillion kilometers. Since we all know the speed of light is 300,000 kilometers per second, a little mental math tells us this is an Earth year, and not Martian, Jovian, or really, anything else in the solar system – it relies on a perspective from just one out of eight (or eighteen) planets, and far from the largest or most important one at that. It doesn’t even specify which year, so we don’t know if it’s a leap year or not. It also fails to take into account when the measurement is or was supposed to be made, since the length of Terran years constantly changes due to orbital mechanics.
It’s been bad enough that we even refer to ‘the’ solar system, like there’s only one, and ‘the’ sun. How utterly confusing is this, and how long would it take to communicate such terms to species from other planets and systems? It’s like some exclusive club where we only talk in code, making sly references to things that only Earthlings would understand. It’s unnecessarily anthrocentric, egotistical, and divisive. It even discriminates against species that don’t detect light as a primary sense.
And then, of course, there’s the astronomical unit (AU,) defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun, just as bad. Not to mention that this distance changes as the Earth revolves. Sheesh.
I propose a measurement based on a universal constant, the radius of a helium atom, which is 28×10-12 meters. A light year is considered 9.46×1012 kilometers, or 9.46×1015 meters. So to create a new measurement within the same rough scale, a yottaHe (YHe) would be 1024 times the diameter of a helium atom, which would translate to…
Oh, wait. We already have parsec, which is a trigonometric function of a circle and parallax. Never mind.