Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kiloseconds & Brevels

The second is the unit of time we all know and love. It is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom at rest at absolute zero, corrected for gravitational time dilation.

A hectosecond is about a minute and a half.

A kilosecond is between 16 and 17 minutes. There are 3.6 kiloseconds in an hour.

A megasecond is about 11 and a half days.

A gigasecond is 31.7 years.

A terasecond is more than 31,000 years.

SI uses the second-minute-hour system because these standard prefixes are completely impractical. It's probably possible for people to think in a system that has 86.4 kiloseconds per day, and an 11-day week. But the system of metric prefixes doesn't allow for a unit of time between 11.5 days and 31.7 years. Some of the obsolete or nonstandard metric units might be helpful. A myriameter would be about 2.7 hours. A hectokilosecond would be 1.2 days.

Adapting an ordinary dial clock to indicate the time in kiloseconds would be a hassle, since the kilosecond doesn't divide easily into minutes or hours. But that doesn't mean we must ignore the humorous or unusual units of measurement. They can live on, as the moment does.

Impractical as it may be, I'm not ready to give up on the kilosecond. Fifteen minutes is a useful, common block of time, and a kilosecond is very similar. One one-hundreth of a day is 14.4 minutes, also very close. This is a unit of time that only needs a name: I dub it the brevel.

The brevel is a vague and indeterminate amount of time: not quite 15 minutes, but close; not quite a thousand seconds, but close; and there are nearly, but not quite, a hundred brevels in a day.


Effectively, this is similar to the ancient Chinese ke (刻).

No comments:

Post a Comment