• Many people don’t realize it, but seconds are the metric unit of time.  Minutes, hours, and days are not metric, but accepted within the metric system.

Attaching the normal metric prefixes to seconds works… mostly.  Milliseconds and microseconds are commonly used in scientific systems.  But what about the positive prefixes?

Well, that gets kind of interesting.  A decasecond is just ten seconds.  Not exactly a terribly useful unit of measure.  A minute would be 6 decaseconds, while an hour would contain, 360 decaseconds instead of 3600 seconds.

A hectosecond is 100 seconds.  That’s approaching something almost useful.  An hour would be 36 hectoseconds instead of 60 minutes.  I kind of like hectosecond.  I may start using it, just to annoy people.

A kilosecond also seems to be useful.  That’s 1,000 seconds.  An hour would be 3.6 kiloseconds long.  A day would be 86.4 kiloseconds long.  Shockingly (after doing the math), I learned that “one day” was defined (in 1967) to be 86,400 seconds long.

This is where things start to get a little odd… and very, very useless.  After kilo, the metric system jumps three decimal places and goes directly to Mega.  A Megasecond would be 1,000,000 seconds or 277.78 hours long.  That’s 11.57 days.  I hesitate to even mention this because I’m afraid that someone might think this is a good idea and institute an 11.5 day week… keeping the same two weekend days.  A nine day work-week, while maybe appealing to managers, would probably massively increase the incidents of suicide and work-related homicide in the US.

Here’s were we basically jump the shark.  The next metric prefix is 1,000 times larger.  You know it well at this point… Giga.  A Gigasecond is one billion seconds.  That’s 277,777.78 hours long.  I’ll just skip the days.  A Gigasecond is 31.2 years.

Heck, I’m not even close to 2 Gigaseconds old yet.  And my boy is not even one quarter a Gigasecond old yet.  The oldest (verifiable) human was only 4 Gigaseconds at the time of her death.  Obviously, a Gigasecond is pretty useless for measuring the lifetime of living things.

It would be better to measure the age of countries or ancient works of art, but we usually age those things by the date of formation, rather than some ‘years old’ (or Gigaseconds old).

You may be familiar with Tera, the next named step past Giga.  Terabyte hard drives are becoming common place.  So what would that look like?

One trillion seconds (a Terasecond) would be 277,777,777.78 hours.  That’s 31,689 years.  Recorded history began barely 4 Teraseconds ago.  The entirety of the existence of Homo sapiens is only about 100 Teraseconds ago.  The K/T extinction (the end of the non-bird dinosaurs) was just over 2,000 Teraseconds ago.  Hmmm… that might actually be a useful measurement.

This message brought to you because I’m bored, I read something stupid on facebook, and I don’t have the brain energy to deal with anything else.

Category: Education