Measuring Time



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This one of several cool little documents I used when teaching math.  I was also the de facto computer teacher for the middle grades and they came in handy there too.  The other documents are also posted on the site home page.

This document deals with very small numbers.  Just like the big numbers on another sheet, these are so small they are almost incomprehensible. The "blink of an eye' is 2/10 of a second. That's fast for humans but it's a lifetime in computer technology. If it took 2/10 of a second to execute each and every computer instruction, the Internet would crawl to a halt.

Once again, this introduces not only some difficult concepts but some unfamiliar vocabulary and gives examples that students can understand. It's also got co-curricular possibilities with science and language arts. The prefixes on this sheet and others are used throughout the technical and scientific communities.


Measuring Time


The measurement of time covers an incredible range. Here are some common time spans, from the shortest to the longest.

        1 picosecond (one-trillionth of a second) - This is about the shortest period of time we can currently measure accurately.

        1 nanosecond (one-billionth of a second) - 2 to 4 nanoseconds is the length of time that a typical home computer spends executing one software instruction.

        1 microsecond (one-millionth of a second) -

        1 millisecond (one-thousandth of a second) - This is the typical fastest time for the exposure of film in a normal camera. A picture taken in 1/1,000th of a second will usually stop all human motion.

        1 centisecond (one-hundredth of a second) - The length of time it takes for a stroke of lightning to strike

        1 decisecond (one-tenth of a second) - A blink of an eye

        1 second - An average person's heart beats once each second.

        60 seconds - One minute; a TV commercial