second = 9.19 billion oscillations of a cesium 133 atom

 minute = 60 seconds

   hour = 3,600 seconds

    day = 86,400 seconds

   week = 604,800 seconds

  month = 18,144,000 seconds

   year = 31,556,926 seconds

 decade = 315,569,260 seconds

century = 3,155,692,600 seconds

The math

Here’s how we calculated all the numbers used to build this site, along with more cool facts and links about the things described here. We’re only human, so check them yourself and make sure we did it right. If you find a mistake, e-mail us!

One second

The speed of light is about 186,282 miles per second. The circumference of the Earth at the equator is about 24,900 miles. 186,282 ÷ 24,900 = 7.48.

Two seconds

Jobs made $646.6 million in 2006. There are 31,556,926 seconds in a year. ($646,600,000 ÷ 31,556,926) x 2 = $40.98.

Three seconds

An F-22’s “supercruise” speed is 1,140 mph. There are 3,600 seconds in an hour. 3,600 ÷ 1,140 = 3.16 seconds.

Four seconds

The Tesla Roadster is the world’s first all-electric production sports car. It isn’t cheap — the 2008 base model cost $98,000 — but it can go 221 miles on a single charge and never needs gas.

Five seconds

The “five-second rule” has little scientific basis. It is true that the quicker you pick it up, the less bacteria it will attract; but even a few seconds can be enough to garner a few bugs if there are enough around — as one researcher found out.

Six seconds

Irina Privalova is a Russian sprinter who set the world record on February 9, 1995, at a meet in Madrid, Spain. She ran 50 meters in 5.96 seconds, breaking her own previous record of 6.03 seconds.

Seven seconds

We don’t really have a whole lot to add to this one.

Eight seconds

The longest eight seconds in the world may be when you’re sitting on top of a bull that’s trying to buck you off. Even top professional riders get thrown a lot — they can top the rankings if they manage to stay on just two-thirds of the time.

Nine seconds

A Virginia-class submarine is 377 feet long, and has a top speed of 25 knots (28.75 mph). There are 3,600 seconds in an hour and 5,280 feet in a mile. (3,600 ÷ 28.75) x (377 ÷ 5280) = (125.22 seconds per mile x .07 miles) = 8.94 seconds to go 377 feet.

10 seconds

Organizing pit crews is a science built on speed and technology. Popular Mechanics observed the 2001 Suzuki crew in action and explained how it worked. It takes four people: two to change the front wheel, one to change the back, and another to gas up.

11 seconds

Joey Chestnut is a competitive eater. During the 2007 contest, he put away 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. There are 60 seconds in a minute. (60 x 12) ÷ 66 = 10.91 seconds per hot dog.

12 seconds

Not a lot gets done in 12 seconds, but that’s not the point. The Senate held these short pro-forma sessions several times over Congress’ holiday break, preventing President Bush from making any recess appointments to fill executive-branch jobs without Senate confirmation.

13 seconds

In the United States, there is one birth every 7 seconds, one death every 11 seconds, and one net immigrant (immigration minus emigration) every 40 seconds. (1 birth every 7 seconds) x (1 immigrant every 40 seconds) = 47 additions every 280 seconds. 280 seconds ÷ (1 death every 11 seconds) = 25.45 deaths every 280 seconds. 47 additions - 25.45 deaths = 21.55 net additions every 280 seconds. 280 ÷ 21.55 = 1 addition every 12.99 seconds.

14 seconds

Ellen Burstyn’s nomination for her cameo appearance in “Mrs. Harris” sparked a spirited debate in entertainment circles. Though the best-supporting-actress Emmy eventually went to Kelly Macdonald, organizers later added a minimum screen-time requirement to its awards.

15 seconds

According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 1 million infections in hospitals could be avoided each year if staff and visitors washed their hands properly. Why 15 seconds? Some germs cling to skin, and 15 seconds gives you a good shot at dislodging them.

16 seconds

Domino’s first held its pizza-making competition in 1982. To claim the 2007 title, Dennis Tran — a Domino’s regional director from Washington state — made three pizzas in 49.1 seconds, breaking his own record of 55 seconds. 49 seconds ÷ 3 pizzas = 16.3 seconds per pizza.

17 seconds

Dan Ruettiger grew up wanting to play football for Notre Dame. He wasn’t the most talented player or the biggest (he was 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds), but he was persistent. In 1974 he earned a spot on the scout team, which mimicks the play of opposing teams in practice. But for two seasons he never played in an actual game. On November 8, 1975, Ruettiger &mdash by then a senior — was sitting on the bench for his last home game, against Georgia Tech. Notre Dame was winning easily, so the coach finally called Ruettiger’s number, sending him in for the last two plays. Ruettiger made the most of it: on the second play he sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback for a loss, ending the game. His teammates carried him off the field on their shoulders. He was portrayed by Sean Astin in the 1993 movie “Rudy”. Ruettiger now makes a living as a motivational speaker.

18 seconds

18 seconds to change a light bulb? Where do people come up with numbers like that? In this case it comes from a group called 18seconds.org, which wants people to replace energy-wasting incandescent lightbulbs with efficient compact fluorescents. CFLs, as they’re called, last 10 times longer and use one-third the energy of incandescents. If everyone swapped out just a few bulbs in their house, we would prevent a mind-boggling amount of pollution and save money as well. The site doesn’t say how they calculated the number; we’re guessing they simply changed a lightbulb and timed how long it took.

19 seconds

The burglary occurred on February 2, 2008. The whole thing was caught on videotape, which is why police know how long the robbers were in the store. As of March 2008 they remain at large.

20 seconds

Human memory works in three stages: sensory, short-term and long-term. Sensory memory is first and shortest: a person observes a scene and records everything in it for (at most) a few seconds. During that time, the handful of things they are consciously paying attention to get transferred to short-term memory, where their brain can analyze and work with the data. Anything that stays in short-term memory long enough gets transferred to long-term memory, where it is stored indefinitely.

21 seconds

The Tomb of the Unknowns is part of Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to symbolically honor all the soldiers whose bodies were never found or identified. The tomb consists of four crypts, one for each of four wars: World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In 1998, DNA testing identified the soldier in the Vietnam crypt as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Blassie, who died when his plane was shot down in 1972. Since then, the Vietnam crypt has remained empty. The 21-second counts in the guard routine allude to a 21-gun salute, the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary.

22 seconds

According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. Nearly all of that blood comes from volunteer donors. To learn how you can donate blood, call your local Red Cross office or visit givelife.org. 22 ÷ 2 = 11 people in 22 seconds.

23 seconds

Every element has many isotopes — versions of the element that all have the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons. Isotopes are identified by the name of the element plus the isotope’s mass number, which is the number of protons plus the number of neutrons in the isotope. For instance, Antimony 110 is an isotope of Antimony with a mass number of 110 (because it has 51 protons and 59 neutrons).

Many isotopes are radioactive, meaning they decay — that is, they turn into another element over time. Uranium 238, for instance, eventually turns into lead. “Half life” measures the rate of such decay: it’s the time it takes for half of a given amount of an isotope to decay. Uranium 238 is fairly stable: it has a half life of 4.5 billion years. Antimony 110’s half-life of just 23 seconds, on the other hand, makes it quite unstable.

24 seconds

The shot clock wasn’t always part of basketball. Back in the 1950s, basketball was little more than an elaborate game of keep-away, with the team in the lead simply holding on to the ball in order to run out the clock. The losing team did everything it could to get the ball back, causing frequent fouls and game stoppages. Most games were long, low-scoring and boring.

With the league’s existence in jeopardy, the National Basketball Association created the shot clock to speed things up and increase scoring. It worked, and basketball is now one of the fastest-paced games in the world.

Why 24 seconds? Because the league decided that 60 shots per team per game was a good average, and games are 48 minutes long. (60 seconds x 48 minutes) ÷ (60 shots x 2 teams) = 2,880 seconds ÷ 120 shots = 24 seconds per shot.

25 seconds

The honor belongs to Chris Dzoan, who holds various other Rubik-related records. The fastest time for solving a Rubik’s Cube with two hands, on dry land? 9.18 seconds, posted by Edouard Chambon of France in 2008.

26 seconds

A standard gas pump dispenses gasoline at the rate of one gallon every 6.5 seconds (federal law allows one gallon every six seconds, but gas stations often build in a safety margin). 6.5 x 4 = 26 seconds to pump 4 gallons.

27 seconds

In general, “transit time” refers to the amount of time a celestial object (star, planet, satellite, etc.) takes to cross a given space. During a solar eclipse, for example, transit time would refer to the time it takes the moon to move across the face of the sun.

In this case, transit time refers to the time it took 2007 TU24 to cross Earth’s orbital path.

Where did the name 2007 TU24 come from? It’s a standard naming convention. “2007” refers to the year of discovery; “T” refers to the half-month of discovery, in this case the first half of October; and “U24” indicates it was the 620th object discovered in that period.

28 seconds

Before computers and satellites, seafarers needed some way to know how fast they were going so they could calculate their position and how long their trip might take. Up until the mid-1800s, they used knots. Sailors would prepare a long rope, with a log attached to one end and knots tied in it every 47 feet 3 inches. The log would be thrown overboard, and the sailors would count how many knots worth of rope paid out in 28 seconds. That number equaled the ship’s speed in nautical miles per hour. For reasons that make sense if you’re at sea, a nautical mile is equal to about 1.15 regular, or statutory, miles.

Why 47 feet 3 inches and 28 seconds? Because there are 6,076 feet in a nautical mile, and 3,600 seconds in an hour. If a ship were going one nautical mile an hour, it would measure one knot. So 6,076 feet per hour ÷ (3,600 seconds in an hour ÷ 28 seconds) = 47 feet 3 inches in 28 seconds.

29 seconds

In November 2006, Amazon.com announced it would sell 1,000 Xbox video-game consoles, normally priced at $299, for $100 each starting at 11 a.m. on Thanskgiving Day. So many people logged on to try to buy one that it shut down Amazon’s entire web site for about 15 minutes. 1,000 Xboxes ÷ 29 seconds = 34.5 Xboxes sold per second.

30 seconds

Staring at the sun can indeed harm your eyes if you do it long enough — a condition called “solar retinopathy.” The solar radiation damages the light receptors at the back of your eye, clouding your vision. Luckily, few people try to stare at the sun for 30 seconds or longer — the brightness forces them to blink or turn away. That’s why most cases of eye damage occur during solar eclipses — the eclipse doesn’t block the harmful radiation but it does reduce the sun’s brightness, making it easier to stare at the sun for long enough to hurt your eyes.

31 seconds

A lot has to happen in the final 31 seconds of a shuttle launch. Among other things, the launch pad and platform are flooded with more than 300,000 gallons of water, which helps keep the tremendous noise of liftoff from damaging the shuttle. But mostly the engines have to ignite properly and in the proper sequence. Each of the three engines fires up 120 milliseconds apart, too fast for a human to manage. If everything is fine, then the tower retracts its holding arms and frees the shuttle for liftoff. Again, all of this happens too quickly for a human to monitor it. The people overseeing the launch can cancel it at any time if they see a problem, but they cannot control the sequence.

32 seconds

Because sound is transmitted by molecules rubbing against one another, it travels faster through denser materials that have their molecules packed closer together. The speed of sound in 70-degree air at sea level is 770mph (1130 feet per second). The speed of sound in far-denser seawater is 3355 mph (4,921 feet per second). There are 5,280 feet in a mile. (1,130 feet per second in air x 32 seconds) ÷ 5,280 feet in a mile = 6.848 miles in 32 seconds. (4,921 feet per second x 32 seconds) ÷ 5,280 feet in a mile = 29.8 miles in 32 seconds.

33 seconds

International Atomic Time (IAT) is based on the vibration of the cesium atom; it’s the measure used in atomic clocks. Coordinated Universal Time, on the other hand, is based on the rotation of the Earth. It takes IAT and adds leap seconds every now and then because the Earth’s rotation is slowing down v-e-r-y gradually, making days longer. That doesn’t mean that the Earth’s rotation has slowed 33 seconds since 1972; it actually slows by a second every 50,000 years or so. So why the 33-second gap? Because the atomic second is based on the average day length in 1820, when days were longer than they are now.

34 seconds

Super Bowl XXIII was played on Jan. 22, 1989, in Miami, Fla. The San Francisco 49ers had one of the best teams in the history of professional football, with quarterback Joe Montana, legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Roger Craig. The winning touchdown came on a 10-yard pass from Montana to John Taylor. Jerry Rice was named the game’s MVP, having piled up 11 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown.

35 seconds

At the mouth of the Mississippi, 600,000 cubic feet of water flow past every second. A standard bathtub holds a little less than 13.5 cubic feet. (600,000 x 35 seconds) ÷ 13.483156 = 1,557,500 bathtubs per second.

36 seconds

The Sahara desert ant is thought to be the fastest ant in the world, covering about a foot per second when it’s in a hurry. It has to be fast, because at the hottest times of the day it can only survive outside for about five minutes. (1 foot per second x 36 seconds) = 36 feet traveled.

37 seconds

Tapei 101 is a 101-story skyscraper that, at 1,667 feet, is the tallest building in the world — edging out the Sears Tower in Chicago (#3) and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (#2). It won’t be the tallest for long, however: The Burj Dubai, a skyscraper under construction in the United Arab Emirates, is already taller than Taipei 101, and will assume the title of world’s tallest building when it opens for occupancy in September 2009, with a finished height of at least 2,300 feet and possibly much more.

38 seconds

The Spice Girls, a hugely popular singing group, formed in 1994 and then broke up in 2001. In 2007 they got back together for a Reunion Tour. The London concert, held on Dec. 15, 2007, was the first London performance of the tour. More than a million people registered for a chance to buy tickets. Because of the demand, the band added 16 more London performances.

39 seconds

The 1976 Guatemalan earthquake registered a magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale — big, but not record-setting. It caused so much damage because many of the buildings in the region were built of adobe mudbrick, and they collapsed under the shaking.

40 seconds

Are cow burps really a serious environmental problem? Yep. Methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, being 21 times more effective at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Each cow produces a lot of it, and humanity’s appetite for beef, dairy products and farm labor means there are a lot of cows. All together, cows produce 80 million metric tons of methane a year — accounting for 28 percent of manmade methane emissions. This has led scientists to study ways to reduce cow burps.

41 seconds

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, blocking sunlight from reaching the Earth. Whereever the Moon’s shadow touches the Earth, the Sun is completely blocked: an event called a “total” solar eclipse. Sometimes only part of the Sun is blocked, an experience known as a “partial” solar eclipse.

There are several solar eclipses each year, and a total eclipse occurs every 18 months or so. But most are only visible from a small part of the Earth’s surface. Because of that, scientists estimate that any given part of the Earth’s surface will experience a total solar eclipse only once every 370 years.

“Totality” refers to the length of time the sun is fully obscured during a total solar eclipse. It’s the only time during an eclipse that it’s safe to look directly at the sun without eye protection.

42 seconds

In hockey, a hat trick means a player or team scored three times. The New Jersey Devils managed to score three times against the Toronto Maple Leafs in that 1985 game — the fastest three-goal scoring run in team history.

43 seconds

Trinity College is part of the University of Cambridge, the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world. At the center of Trinity College is the Great Court, a large open space surrounded by college buildings.

There’s a long tradition, known as the Great Court Run, of trying to run the 367-meter (401-yard) perimeter of the Great Court in the time it takes the King’s Gate clock to strike noon. It’s a tough challenge: the world record for running the comparable 400-meter Olympic event is 43.18 seconds, meaning one must be in near-Olympic-caliber shape to succeed despite the slightly shorter distance. That’s one reason the Great Court Run was recreated in the 1981 Olympic film “Chariots of Fire.”

44 seconds

Just Born Inc. pumps out 4.2 million marshmallow Peeps per day. There are 24 hours in a day, and 3,600 seconds in an hour. 4.2 million ÷ 24 ÷ 3,600 x 44 seconds = 2,139.

45 seconds

Jetpacks aren’t quite ready for household use, but you can still buy one. The Thunderpack TP-R2G2M costs $90,000. And the engine only lasts about 3 hours before it needs to be replaced. Not counting fuel costs, that works out to $7.83 per second of use.

46 seconds

Lorenz S42 was a cipher machine used by the German military in World War II, similar to the more-famous Enigma model. To break the Lorenz code the British built Colossus, the world’s first electronic digital computer. It usually took several hours to decipher a message.

In 1993, a man named Tony Sale decided to build a working replica of Colossus. The project took 14 years, finishing in 2007. To celebrate, Sale’s team announced a challenge: pitting the rebuilt Colossus against all challengers in deciphering a Lorenz code.

Joachim Schueth of Germany took the challenge to heart, writing a special computer program to do the job. His story — along with the source code for his program — is here.

47 seconds

Kevin Young is an American athlete. His world record time of 46.78 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles earned him a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Oddly, his time could have been even faster for two reasons: He knocked over the last hurdle, costing him a one-second penalty; and he was so far ahead that he slowed down and raised his arms in victory as he neared the finish line.

48 seconds

When you drop an object, gravity makes it fall. But gravity also accelerates the object, just like the accelerator on a car: the longer an object falls, the faster it falls.

On Earth, a falling object accelerates at about 32 feet per second; every second it falls 32 feet farther than it did the second before. For example, if an object falls 32 feet in the first second, it will fall 64 feet in the next second and 96 feet in the third second, for a total distance of 192 feet (32+64+96).

When falling through atmosphere, however, objects generate friction, which slows them down. The thicker the atmosphere and the faster and wider the object, the more friction it generates and thus the more it slows down.

This tug of war — gravity accelerating the object, friction slowing it down — eventually balances out. Terminal velocity refers to the point where the friction cancels out the acceleration of gravity. From that point on the object stops accelerating and falls at a constant speed.

Technically, terminal velocity varies by altitude, because the atmosphere gets thicker the closer you get to the ground. But as a rough estimate, a human-sized object falling through Earth’s atmosphere has a terminal velocity of about 176 feet per second. 8,448 feet ÷ 176 feet per second = 48 seconds.

49 seconds

The Tour of California is a 650-mile, eight-day bike race through south and central California, similar to the far-more-famous Tour de France. The 2008 race, held Feb. 17-24, was won by Levi Leipheimer, who covered the route in a total time of 29 hours, 24 minutes and 32 seconds.

50 seconds

Nothing yet!

51 seconds

The Mars rovers, part of NASA’s efforts to explore Mars, have a top speed of 5 centimeters (2 inches) per second, but they’re very cautious: To avoid getting stuck, they spend 20 seconds surveying their surroundings for every 10 seconds they spend driving, for an average speed of 1 centimeter per second. A centimeter is .3937 of an inch. 1 centimeter per second x 51 seconds x .3937 = 20 inches in 51 seconds.

52 seconds

“Jana Gana Mana,” written by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, was adopted as the national anthem of India on Jan. 24, 1950, two-and-a-half years after India gained independence from Britain. It is officially supposed to last for exactly 52 seconds, for reasons that are unclear.

53 seconds

Kendall-Jackson is the United States’ ninth-largest winery, producing 5 million cases (60 million bottles) a year. 300 bottles a minute ÷ 60 seconds x 53 seconds = 265 bottles in 53 seconds.

54 seconds

A good typist can average 80 words per minute without mistakes. There are 12 words in the sentence above. 80 words per minute ÷ 60 seconds in a minute x 54 seconds = 72 words in 54 seconds. 72 words ÷ 12 words in the sentence = 6 repetitions of the sentence in 54 seconds.

55 seconds

Nothing yet!

56 seconds

The second of nine children, Laila Ali followed her father, Muhammad Ali, into boxing. She currently holds two super middleweight world titles and co-hosts the “American Gladiators” television show.

57 seconds

Bottlenose dolphins have a top speed of about 40 kilometers per hour (24.85 mph). They can only sustain that for a little while, though. Their most efficient swimming speed is 8 kph (5 mph). At that speed, they cover about one and a half football fields in 57 seconds. 24.85 mph x 5,280 feet in a mile ÷ 3,600 seconds in an hour x 57 seconds = 2,077 feet in 57 seconds.

58 seconds

Kirsty Coventry is an Olympic swimmer from Zimbabwe. She swam the 100-meter backstroke in a world-record 57.99 seconds during the second heat of the world short-course swimming championships.

59 seconds

The Wright Brothers — Orville and Wilbur — made four flights over the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. The first (and most famous) lasted 12 seconds and covered just 120 feet, with Orville at the controls. The second and third lasted only slightly longer. But the fourth and last flight, with Wilbur piloting, covered 852 feet. It heralded the beginning of human flight.

60 seconds

The Earth is about 4.54 billion years old. There are 525,600 minutes in a year. 525,600 x 4,540,000,000 = 2,386,224,000,000,000 minutes. Multiply that by 60, and you get 143,173,440,000,000,000 seconds.

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