Various Nonsensicals

Unnecessarily Ranking: Speeds of Phrase

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Every once in a while, someone will estimate the time needed for them to perform a given task by using some arbitrary idiom? I am interested in how fast those phrases actually are. Though, to be clear, this is only in relative terms and for a very limited number of them. I am far too lazy to take on finding some exact, quantifiable number for the speed of every expression. Instead, here is a rough rundown of a few of these phrases as I try to determine how they could be ranked. All of this based on minimal knowledge and the barest of research.

The logical starting point would be a flash, largely due to it being the most boring of the group. After all, a universal speed limit of 299,792,458 meters per second is pretty tough to beat.

Speed Force? Infinite Mass Punch? Seems like someone is overcompensating for something.

Not that it isn't possible, but particles associated with cherenkov radiation are cheaters and everybody knows it!

I suppose I could hobble it further by referring specifically to camera flash. That's what? A microsecond? Maybe less, but usually more? Still pretty fast even if it is not the speed of light.

Things get a little more interesting with a heartbeat. The average resting heart rate for a human is anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute. But what about a human with an elevated heart rate? What about a slowed one? Tachycardia or bradycardia?

Iíve seen House. Iím pretty sure those are words.

Why does it even have to be a human? Someone referring to a hummingbird is going to be a lot more efficient than a person referring to a blue whale. That's a difference of about 1200 bpm between the two. These are the sort of things to think about.

Which is to say nothing of a jiffy. That term has completely different meanings across various fields. Electronics. Computing. Though if I had to pick one, I would probably go with physics. 3x10^-24 seconds. Thatís a number so small, I switched notations just to put it in here. That is the time it takes for light to travel one fermi, which wikipedia leads me to believe is approximately a nucleon. Yeah, thatís right. I know what a nucleon is too.

And Iím gonna take my best girl up to the point in it.

While I could pick any of them on a whim, every other field probably has some reason why their version of a jiffy is better.

Certain scientists can be a little competitive and arrogant. Much like New Yorkers. Thatís right. Let's take a minute to laugh at New York. Or should I say, a New York minute!


Shut up. I'm hilarious.

But just how long is a New York minute? Johnny Carson once determined it to be the time between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn.

Or it might be about one hour and 31 minutes, but I havenít bothered to check.

I was more of a Tia and Tamera kid myself.

At the end of the day, as hectic a lifestyle people outside of New York may think New Yorkers have, or as cool as stereotypical New Yorkers may think they are, a New York Minute is no more than 60 seconds. The only real difference is that those seconds cost roughly 3 times more than anywhere else. Anyone spending enough time in New York will be broke before you can sayÖ

What would you say?

Thatís the problem with this phrase. There are so many things that can used to end that statement that it makes it difficult to figure out a standardized speed or time. Apparently, Jack Robinson is the norm, but there are a plethora of others. Quidditch or noodles or mixed vegetables. They can be monosyllabic or the proper name for titin.

Then there is the matter of how quickly the speaker speaks. There are several records of speakers such as Sean Shannon and Fran Capo speaking over 600 words per minute. Or a person could be completely mute, effectively making the time before they could say anything infinite.

No matter how good they are at charades.

Why, yes. I am aware that I just used ďbefore they could sayĒ in my description of the same. Thanks for noticing.

What about how much time passes before you know it. What is knowing things anyway? This gets a little too philosophical.

And itís not as if you can study it in ten minutes.

One could use the measured time it takes for the brain to recognize what the eye sees, but that may not be prudent for at least two reasons.

One: Eyes are dirty liars and brains are notoriously stupid. A terrible combination.

B: That assumes information from the eye is processed the fastest, as opposed to the nose or ears or basically anything else. Just because they are arguably the most used sensory organ of the average human doesnít make it the best. But thatís the sort of self-centeredness you can expect from eyes.

So why use any of the traditional senses. A reflex response should be adequate. The brain reacts so quickly, it feels like it makes the body react before you really know what is going on. It must be perfect. And your brain knowing something is the same as you knowing it. Right?

Son of a bilateral inferior temporal callosal hemisphere!

This is all getting very complicated. This was never meant to be complicated. I need something incredibly simple. Maybe a bit catchy. Something...




But still not as boss as the Nucleon.

Even without being greased, lightning is pretty fast. Itís like light, only with some ning to create drag and slow it down. So being lightning fast must be pretty impressive. And roughly 50 meters per microsecond is tough to ignore. Particularly if that thing hits you. Twice even. But what are the odds of that?

Give me the odds if you add a batch of chemicals too.

I think a split second seems like a logical next step to test. This one should be easy. Simply split a second in half, leaving 0.5 seconds in the end. Itís so simple.

No reason to split hairs over it.

Actually, there are a couple of reasons why this doesnít work. First off, who ever said the second is split right down the middle? Why should the result be even pieces? It could be 0.8 seconds, or 0.3. Who knows? So that leaves us, at best, with a range of times from a number approaching zero and a number approaching 1. Basically, 0
But not even that is sufficient, because split is not the same as subtract. When someone refers to a split second, the entire second is still there, it is merely in pieces. None of those pieces are taken away. Therefore, counted in aggregate, the total time is still one full second. So, in reality, saying something will only take a split second is no different than saying it will take one full one.

The blink of an eye is another popular phrase. I blink all the time. I know lots of people that do it. Itís like an addiction.

Some have more trouble with the habit than others.

Blinking occurs pretty often and pretty fast. As it happens, I have a source for the numbers on this one. A prestigious source no less. The Harvard Database of Useful Biological Numbers. Itís not a primary source and might stretch the meaning of ďusefulĒ more than it thinks, but itís a .edu so it still counts.

Iím sure Yale has some good numbers too. But to be fair, Harvard was here first.

Given the unquestionable integrity of this source, I think we can safely agree that a range of somewhere between 100 and 400 milliseconds is a good estimate for the time it takes to blink.

There. That was easy. I canít believe I wasnít using this for all of these phrases. Hey! Letís see if The Harvard Database of Useful Biological Numbers has anything on two shakes of a lambís tail.


Nothing? No, it canít be nothing. Lambís are completely biological. Arenít they? Have they been robots in sheepís clothing this whole time? Why didnít anybody tell me?

Thereís a robot uprising and youíre worried about some wolves?

What am I supposed to do now? Iím certainly not going to use the 10 nanoseconds that define a shake in nuclear physics. There isnít a lamb involved there. UnlessÖ

Radioactive Robo Sheep!

You really dropped the ball this time!

I am not prepared with any research on this. I was really relying on Harvard and they let me down.

I donít want to hear a thing out of you!

Ok. Iíve got this. Two shakes of a lambís tail is, um, twice as long as a single shake of a lambís tail.

Look, I donít know what you want from me. I said at the beginning that none of this even matters. None of these phrases could hope to surpass the speed of light. This contest was over before it began. Had I stuck to my guns on the matter from the start, I would have written this entry in noÖ



No time flat! A flash may be fast, but even light takes some time. Every time takes some time, so no time takes no time.

It happened. A flash has been defeated.

And Daredevil is a better show too!

There you have it. The top idiom in regards to how quickly someone is actually accomplishing a task. No time flat.

What about the rest of the list?

Ultimately, based on not having done proper research and the fact that everything is in not only different units, but completely different types of measurement, I conclude that ordering these in any meaningful way is both dumb and pointless. If you insist, feel free to order them in the generally alphabetized manner in which they are already arranged.

Besides, people are full of it when they say they will do something at these speeds anyway.