Reasonable Units for Distances

Given the theory of relativity, C (the speed of light) has absolute meaning. Since speed is distance/time, this means that we have a standard way of converting time into distance. Instead of measuring time and distance in different units, we should be using the same units.

Hence, a second (in meters), would be 299,792,458. Of course, that’s quite a distance — so instead, let’s do the standard thing and use prefixes to scale it down to useful numbers.

1 nanosecond =~ .3m =~ 0.984 feet (if you need less than 3% accuracy, a nanosecond is a foot)
1 microsecond =~ 0.3km =~ 0.1875 miles

I’m roughly .495 nanoseconds tall. My wife is around .525 nanoseconds. I have to drive about 160 microseconds to get to work — for most of it, the legal speed limit is around 340 micros. (Note — speed has no more units, but it does have scale — the legal speed limit is 340*10e-6). Anyone else up to the task of starting to measure distance in nano- and micro- seconds in real life?

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3 Responses to Reasonable Units for Distances

  1. adistav says:

    Absolutely. But I recall you both were a bit taller than that? Perhaps by a factor of ten?

  2. Ken Whitesell says:

    I will never forget seeing Adm Grace Hopper giving a talk, and distributing nanoseconds to the audience afterward. (They were lengths of wire the proper length.)

    • BusiR says:

      Hrm… With the above equivalents… wouldn’t your above given height translate to be somewhere short of 6 inches (5.844″)? If you were 5’10”, using the above equivalents, you should be about 5.928 light-nanoseconds tall.

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