In the blink of an eye

Speed limit sign2Light travels at a rate of 186,000 miles per second, or about 670 million miles per hour. Thus, it doesn’t take very long for a photon to travel from, say, a light bulb to your retina—in the blink of an eye, if you will. This is also about how long it takes for Bank of America to reject my loan applications.

People sometimes do things too fast. They drive too fast. They eat too fast. You know what I mean. Sometimes they shoot off their mouths too fast. Sometimes people are too quick to judge, and end up hurting someone’s feelings.

Back in the good old days people didn’t seem to be in such a hurry. A young boy could get an adrenalin rush by racing his single gear bike down a steep hill, flying along at up to twenty miles per hour. I once read that at the turn of the century many people were terrified of the prospect of stepping from the relative safety of their horse-drawn buggies into a horseless carriage that would then go tearing through the muddy streets, imperiling life and limb, also at a top speed of about twenty miles per hour. They bought special eye goggles to counter the effect of the headwind (and flying mud and whatnot) from such speeds. Decades later, young men would buy Chryslers with supercharged engines and then drive them everywhere as fast as possible all the time. But it wasn’t because they were in a hurry. They just liked to go fast.

One interesting thing about speed is that it is entirely relative. For example, a space shuttle can get up to about 18,000 miles per hour, relative to the earth’s surface, as it orbits the planet. However, when approaching the international space station, which is also travelling at the same relative rate of speed, the shuttle appears motionless.

I think what we might take from this is that the pace at which we pursue our daily activities needs to be appropriate for the task at hand. That is to say, there are some things that simply should not be done in a hurry—like, say, selecting a mate (stay away from Las Vegas) or making love (unless it’s the lunch hour). On the other hand, not keeping up with everyone else can be injurious to your health: Driving in the fast lane on the interstate at fifty miles per hour can get you shot.

Speaking of Chryslers, my four-door sedan has a speedometer that goes up to 120 miles per hour. I have to wonder if it could actually go that fast. If so, I could get to work in the morning in the blink of an eye.

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3 comments

    My question is how come people move so slowly when they’re ‘fasting’? Or….was Stalin Russian? How could he be if he was stallin’? And I like JMK’s question about the speed of thought. Look into this, Skip. As for me, I’ve gotta go….I’m late for a nap.

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