The USS Quad Damage

The speed of light

I create a new unit of measurement to ruin people's lives

Adding a light nanosecond to the mix is going to be about 6.9181e-04 times as hilarious.

Have you noticed that the speed of light is close to 300Mm/s (The “M” is for “Mega”). People have proposed that we make light-seconds (or some related number) a measure of distance, so we can do speed of light calculations easily. The reason this sort of thing hasn’t caught on is because, unlike a meter, which is yay wide, a light-second is roughly 300,000 Kilometers. But, what if instead of a light second, you went for a light nanosecond?

Before I continue, I want you guys to go to this page and just... gasp... I guess.

1 light nanosecond is roughly a third of a meter, which is around 30 cm, which is about the length of a foot. Making this the new SI unit for length could re-unite the imperials (who use a system like the length of a sufficiently cute horse’s whiskers and The weight of the Queen’s snot to measure stuff) and the SI guys (who use a system which... has a french sounding name?). The length of a ruler is still practically unchanged, and everything is good.

Except it isn’t. See, the big problem that engineers have today is converting from imperial units to metric ones. The problem isn’t actually in the conversion, per se, it’s in the tolerances of the items they’ve got. 1 inches = 2.54 centimeters, which is a fairly straight-forward conversion. However, a lot of the times things in the mechanical world aren’t built correct to 2 decimal places, and sometimes, even though they are built to those decimal places, they’re built with nice round numbers in mind. You can either use something that’s 3/4", or 19mm, but you can’t just put one in the other.

Engineers deal not only with single values, but they deal with a single value plus or minus some tolerance. They basically have to rig products so that the range of sizes of a sprocket can fit into the range of sizes for the widget. This is pretty hard. When people talk about two parts not fitting together because one group was using inches and the other was using centimeters, they’re (usually) not saying that the pieces were two and a half times larger or smaller, but that the base unit was inches for one group of people, and centimeters for the other, and they converted those units to the other, causing all sorts of problems. Adding a light nanosecond to the mix is going to be about 6.9181e-04 times as hilarious.

Secondly, I don’t have a problem with the meter as defined, I have a problem with the second! It’s still the imperial unit of measure, it’s strange and confusing. More importantly, it’s defined to be something retarded:

The second 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 caesium 133 atom.

This is assuming you’re in space, or correcting for it somehow...

I’d much prefer if a second was around 100 million meters... but then we’d need to figure out a good definition for a meter.