Pete Townsend in Space!

I think this belongs here in GQ, but move it as necessary. I think I alluded to this in another thread, but no one ever commented on it.

So, suppose Pete developed a different guitar strap. You see, guitars hang from straps. Pete’s invention is a belt that goes around his waist and his right thigh that’ll suspend his guitar in the same playing position. He takes this belt and a guitar up to the ISS, or ISS V.2, because there’s a spherical compartment there that has a 20 foot diameter chamber an no obstructions.

Pete floats in wearing the guitar and manages to stabilize himself in the center. He’s weightless. Then he starts playing with his right arm doing his windmill strum (counter-clockwise from his perspective). 2 questions:

  1. Will the rest of his body start turning in a clockwise direction in opposition to his arm’s spin?

B. If the answer to 1 is “yes”, if Pete stops windmilling his arm and just holds it stationary, would his body continue to spin?

Who is he?

Lead guitarist for the Who.

I must be getting old.


Assuming running coach wasn’t wooshing us, Townsend had a unique style of playing the electric guitar called the windmill. He would wear his guitar very low, take his plectrum containing hand, and whirl it around like, well, a windmill for visual (if not sonorous) effect.

As I’m an old fart, I only wish there was a way that yutes of today could conveniently search for and view video clips so you could see what I mean. :wink:


In his girlfriend’s online talk show “In The Attic”, there was a animated bit in the opening where a cartoon Pete started windmilling and took off like a helicopter.

I think you meant he is Who.:smiley:

A true nitpick, from a Pete fan:

His surname is Townshend. Note the H in there.

(Of no real relevance at all: Townsend is actually my mother’s maiden name.)

I really want to know.

My answer is yes, if he windmilled in a counter-clockwise direction, he would begin rotating in a clockwise direction. If he stopped, he would continue with his new moment of inertial.

While a bunch of actual physicists come running in to tell me why I’m wrong, I’ll add another questions. After he smashes his guitar against the window, will the ISS’s orbit become higher or lower as all the air rushes out the hole causing the ISS to jet in the opposite direction?

Oh man, the problems with my generation.

Behind blue eyes is someone that is very saddened by that question.

74westy, thank you.

I understand he stopped smashing his guitars long ago. There was a time when Gibson stopped making SGs which slowed down that habit. I guess it was too difficult to get a satisfactory smash out of an LP.

Now that I think of it, Pete’s has had some bad luck with guitars. Besides not being able to get SGs to smash, there was the Windmill/Stratocaster incident. The way I heard it, he was windmilling on a Strat, and the tremolo arm was in a bad postion and he drove the arm through the palm of his hand. He still plays a Strat with the trem arm (hanging down). I dunno, I hardly used the tremolo myself, so i usually left the arm in the case.

Yeah that’s what I heard too.

74westy - Who doesn’t even know where the tremolo arm for his Strat (copy) is.

First sentence correct, second sentence wrong. If he stopped his arm his body would stop also.

Here you go. Iconic windmill at appx 1:47.

(Parenthetically I would add that those three notes are among the most famous three notes in all of Rock and Roll.)

Last “official” smash was at Yokahama in 2004 (he’s tossed a few since, but never a whole-hearted smash). The last smashed guitar ended up as a coffee table.

He tore his hand up in several ways doing the windmill…including many ripped-off fingernails. The evidence can be seen in the iconic Annie Leibovitz portrait.

Who is he, and he is she.

And dog is fish.
A free smiley to anyone who knows what the hell I’m talking about…

Okay… to keep this thread on track, and rooted in reality, I’d like to ask:
How does arm movement affect the astronauts in real life? If an astronaut goes out on a space walk to fix the Hubble telescope, I assume he has to anchor his feet before he can start to turn a screwdriver…otherwise the screw will stay in place, and the astronaut’s body would rotate around the screwdriver . Am I right?

So what about a space walk that is totally unconnected to the ship…just a man floating in “freefall”,with no safety line or anything to grab onto. The mass of his body is more than the mass of his arm…so how much does a simple movement of his arm affect his location? And if he could move his arms as wildly as Pete Townshend…could he “swim” around the space shuttle?

(and to answer Leo Bloom in the previous post: I win your free smiley.But you’re making lousy puns with the Hebrew language, and it’s just a bit off topic, innit? )

If he swings his arm one way, his body will turn the other such that momentum of his arm and body will be the same but in opposite directions, and the speeds at which they move will be inversely proportionate to their masses. In other words, his light arm will rotate fast one way, his heavier body will rotate more slowly the other.

Nothing he does by way of arm (or other body part) movement will affect the location of his centre of mass at all.

During the Hubble repairs, the astronaut did have his feet anchored. A handhold near a screw or bolt needing loosening or tightening can prevent an astronaut from turning.

In freefall with no tether, no rocket pack, and nothing to push against, no body movement will effect one’s location, just his orientation, or attitude. That is, he can change position in respect to a nearby spacecraft, back to it, face to it, feet up, feet down, stationary or spinning, etc. but he can’t wiggle his way into closing or opening the distance between himself and the craft. For that, he’d need some thrust. He can’t push off without something to push against.

Maybe you should refer to Heinlein’s “Space Cadet”. It deals with movement in freefall, among other things.

Even if, for some reason, you didn’t have handholds or footholds, you could still turn a screw. You’d make yourself turn a little too, but you’re much bigger than the screw, and hence have a much higher moment of inertia, so it’d mostly be the screw turning.

And it’s not Pete Townsend, but there has been guitar-playing on the ISS.