Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sun 31st Oct, 2010

Putting speed in perspective

I just realised something: why don't we measure speed logarithmically? Instead of kilometres per hour or metres per second, why not the logarithm of metres per second? If you take the 'Factor' column in the handy Wikipedia Orders of magnitude (speed) page and take the base ten logarithm, you get this value. (I use the 'TD:' prefix here as an homage to Blake's Seven, which seems to have had the idea first.)

What's interesting here is that most of our fastest man-made things are around TD:2 - from the Bugatti Veyron to the SR-71 Blackbird. Most of our regular movement in everyday life is around TD:-1 to TD:1. Once you move up to TD:4 you're in escape velocity territory. Then it's all orbital velocity, elementary particles and light transmission up to TD:8, where you hit the speed of light (at TD:8.476820703 or thereabouts).

From there it's all conjecture. A lightyear per second, an idea I explore elsewhere, is actually around TD:15 - a colossal speed but even then painfully slow for exploring the universe. At TD:15 it still takes nearly three weeks to get to Andromeda, the nearest large galaxy. Upping the speed to TD:20 makes that journey into three minutes, but still the far reaches of the galaxy will take years or decades.

Bring it on, I say.

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