Monday, August 22, 2005

1,000,000,000 and counting

This last weekend I passed through my one billionth second since birth. While this is, admittedly, a fairly nerdy milestone to celebrate, you too can calculate other semi-useless anniversaries since your birthday using this calendar. (Note that this calendar is only accurate to 30 seconds or so, due to round-off errors. But if you really want to be exact, then you can probably think of other ways to calculate your billionth second. Don't forget to account for leap seconds!)

Numbers like this actually allow people to get some handle on big numbers, which astronomers love to throw around. Here are more commonly-used amounts of time related to seconds:

  • 100 seconds = 1 2/3 minutes
  • 1000 seconds = 16 2/3 minutes
  • 10,000 seconds = 2 hours, 46 2/3 minutes
  • 100,000 seconds = 1 day, 3 hours, 46 2/3 minutes
  • 1 million seconds = 11.5 days (I'm rounding off from here on)
  • 10 million seconds = 115.7 days
  • 100 million seconds = 3 years, 2 months
  • 1 billion seconds = 31 years, 8 months
  • 10 billion seconds = 317 years
  • 1 trillion seconds = 31,688 years

How does this compare to astronomical times and distances?

  • Time it would take to travel to the sun at a rate of one mile per second (3600 miles per hour, or about 6 times faster than a typical commercial jet airplane) = 93 million seconds = 2 years, 11 months (light takes just 8 minutes!)
  • Time it would take to travel to the the nearest star, Proxima Centauri (4.2 light-years away), at a rate of one mile per second = 25 trillion seconds = 800,000 years
  • Time it would take to travel to the nearest big galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy (about 2 million light-years away) at one mile per second = 380 billion years, or nearly 30 times longer than the Universe has been around!

Thus ends your daily dose of useless trivia. :)

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