Sunday, February 19, 2006

Abject Failure of Minute Proportions

How long is one second? Well, it takes about one second to say the words, "one second". One second is 1.66% of one minute and 0.00027% of one hour. If we carry out this formulation to an entire day, one second represents 0.00000115% of each 24-hour period.

There is hardly anything substantive a person can do in one second. It's just a miniscule blip on the radar of life.

Only in athletics -- particularly showcased in the Winter & Summer Olympics -- does one second seem to mean the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. In fact, in the Olympics, one second ain't nuth'n! Careers are built or destroyed by tenths and hundredths of one second.

Last night I watched the 1000 meter speedskating finals as well as some downhill skiing, one of the slaloms. The commentators were explaining why certain competitors lost their respective races. They used slow-motion replays to show why this or that skier failed in their quest for a medal.

One of the American skiers finished in 7th or 8th place and the commentators were moaning about the skier's disappointing performance. The way they were talking you would think this fellow had finished several minutes behind the leaders.

When the final standings were flashed on the screen, the American lad had finished 0.74 seconds behind the top time! Less than one itsy bitsy second!!

All this proves to me is that some people place to much importance on numbers. A scintilla of a second shouldn't make or break a career or mean success or failure.

But that's just me.


  1. LOL! Reminds me of a Seinfeld bit, how these races result in photo finishes, where you have to check the photo to see who won.

    Of course, without seeing him do it, it's almost impossible to replicate the joke, but basically he cocks his heads forward and then backward, moving his nose ahead by an inch or so, and says, "Winner (nose forward), loser (nose back an inch). (Nose forward again) Greatest guy in the world, (nose back an inch), never heard of him."

  2. It's even more ridiculous when you plot that out in distance behind the leaders...since they're moving so fast.

    70mph reasonable for alpine events, espeically on that last stretch diving at the line...that is the equivalent of 75 feet.

    Those skis are about six feet long, so the distance between the gold and 8th place was about 12 ski lengths. In that 12 ski lengths, you had six other skiers. Not exactly "close" but also not a mile behind clobbered in the netting.

    Now try that with speed skating, where they sustain a speed of about 37mph heading up the straights. That's about half the speed of the skiers. That means that 1 second is 50 feet. The leaders of the speedskating events are usually within .1 to .4 seconds of the winner. That means people lose by 5 to 20 feet. Not much is it?


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