Orders of magnitude (time)

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In the context of time, an order of magnitude is a description of the quantity of a time in respect to comparison between differing magnitudes. In common usage, the scale is usually the base10 or base−10 exponent being applied to an amount, making the order of magnitude 10 times greater or smaller.[1] As the differences are measured in factors of 10, a logarithmic scale is applied. In terms of time, the relationship between the smallest limit of time, the Planck time, and the next order of magnitude larger is 10.

Low order of magnitude - measures by the unit second (s)[edit]

Unit (s) Multiple Symbol Definition Comparative examples & common units
10−44 1 Planck time tP The time required to travel one Planck length at the speed of light (c) 10−20 ys = 10−44 s: One Planck time tP = 5.4×10−44 s[2] is the briefest physically meaningful span of time. It is the unit of time in the natural units system known as Planck units.
10−24 1 yoctosecond ys[3] Yoctosecond, (yocto- + second), is one septillionth of a second 0.3 ys: mean life of the W and Z bosons.[4][5][a]
0.5 ys: time for top quark decay, according to the Standard Model.
1 ys: time taken for a quark to emit a gluon.
23 ys: half-life of 7H.
10−21 1 zeptosecond zs Zeptosecond, (zepto- + second), is one sextillionth of one second 7 zs: half-life of helium-9's outer neutron in the second nuclear halo.
17 zs: approximate period of electromagnetic radiation at the boundary between gamma rays and X-rays.
300 zs: approximate typical cycle time of X-rays, on the boundary between hard and soft X-rays.
500 zs: current resolution of tools used to measure speed of chemical bonding[6]
850 zs:The time it takes the electron to change its quantum state from the very constricted, bound state around the atom to a free state,[7] which is currently the quickest time ever observed.
10−18 1 attosecond as One quintillionth of one second 12 attoseconds: best timing control of laser pulses.[8]
10−15 1 femtosecond fs One quadrillionth of one second 1 fs: Cycle time for 300 nanometre light; ultraviolet light; light travels 0.3 micrometres (µm).
140 fs: Electrons have localized onto individual bromine atoms 6Å apart after laser dissociation of Br2.[9]
10−12 1 picosecond ps One trillionth of one second 1 ps: half-life of a bottom quark; light travels 0.3 millimeters (mm)
1 ps: lifetime of a transition state
4 ps: Time to execute one machine cycle by an IBM Silicon-Germanium transistor
10−9 1 nanosecond ns One billionth of one second 1 ns: Time to execute one machine cycle by a 1 GHz microprocessor
1 ns: Light travels 30 centimetres (12 in)
10−6 1 microsecond µs One millionth of one second 1 µs: Time to execute one machine cycle by an Intel 80186 microprocessor
4–16 µs: Time to execute one machine cycle by a 1960s minicomputer
10−3 1 millisecond ms One thousandth of one second 1 ms: time for a neuron in human brain to fire one impulse and return to rest[10]
4–8 ms: typical seek time for a computer hard disk
10−2 1


cs One hundredth of one second 18–300 ms (=0.02–0.3 s): Human reflex response to visual stimuli

20 ms: cycle time for European 50 Hz AC electricity

10−1 1


ds One tenth of a second 100–400 ms (=0.1–0.4 s): Blink of an eye[11]
150 ms: recommended maximum time delay for telephone service

185 ms: the duration of a full rotation of the main rotor on Bell 205, 212 and 412 helicopters (normal rotor speed is 324 RPM)

100 1 second s 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. 1 s: 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.[12]

6 s: time it takes for a human to breathe

101 1 decasecond das Ten seconds 19.54 s: Half-life of Carbon-10

40 s: Time til cyanide starts acting

60 s: 1 minute

102 1 hectosecond hs One hundred seconds 494 s: Time it takes for light to reach the sun

600 s: Half-life of Neutronium

103 1 kilosecond
(16.7 minutes)
ks One thousand seconds 3.6 ks: 3600 s or 1 hour
86.4 ks: 86 400 s or 1 day
604.8 ks: 1 week
103 s, 104 s, 105 s
106 1 megasecond
(11.6 days)
Ms One million seconds

2.6 Ms: approximately 1 month
31.6 Ms: approximately 1 year ≈ 107.50 s

109 1 gigasecond
(3.2 decades)
Gs One billion seconds

2.1 Gs: average human life expectancy at birth (2011 estimate)[13]
3.16 Gs: approximately 1 century
31.6 Gs: approximately 1 millennium

1012 1 terasecond
(32 Millenniums)
Ts One trillion seconds

6 Ts: Time since the appearance of Homo sapiens (approximately)
80 Ts: Time it takes for light to travel from the Andromeda Galaxy to the Milky Way.[14]
160–220 Ts: Time since the divergence of the human and chimpanzee lineages.[15]

1015 1 petasecond
(32 thousand Millenniums)
Ps One quadrillion seconds 2.1 Ps: (66 million years) Time elapsed since the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, during which all non-avian dinosaurs became extinct.[16]

7.1–7.9 Ps: 1 galactic year (225-250 million years)[17]
143 Ps: the age of the Earth[18][19][20]
144 Ps: the approximate age of the Solar system[21] and the Sun.[22]
430 Ps: the approximate age of the Universe
440 Ps: the half-life of thorium 232

1018 1 exasecond
(32 million Millenniums)
Es One quintillion seconds 312 Es: Estimated lifespan of a 0.1 solar mass red dwarf star.
1021 1 zettasecond
(32 billion Millenniums)
Zs One sextillion seconds 3 Zs: Estimated duration of Stelliferous Era.
1024 1 yottasecond
(32 trillion Millenniums)
Ys One septillion seconds 1.6416 Ys: Estimated half-life of the meta-stable 20983Bi radioactive isotope.

6.616×1050 Ys: Time required for a 1 solar mass black hole to evaporate completely due to Hawking radiation, if nothing more falls in.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ PDG reports the resonance width (Γ). Here the conversion τ = ħΓ is given instead.
  1. ^ Brians, Paus. "Orders of Magnitude" (8/4/2013)
  2. ^ "CODATA Value: Planck time". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. Available at: http://www.bartleby.com/61/21/Y0022100.html. Accessed December 19, 2007. note: abbr. ys or ysec
  4. ^ C. Amsler et al. (2009): Particle listings – W boson
  5. ^ C. Amsler et al. (2009): Particle listings – Z boson
  6. ^ esciencenews (2010)
  7. ^ http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-measure-the-smallest-fragment-of-time-ever-witness-an-electron-escaping-an-atom
  8. ^ "12 attoseconds is the world record for shortest controllable time". 
  9. ^ Li, Wen; et al. (November 23, 2010). "Visualizing electron rearrangement in space and timeduring the transition from a molecule to atoms". PNAS. 107 (47): 20219–20222. doi:10.1073/pnas.1014723107. PMC 2996685Freely accessible. PMID 21059945. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  10. ^ http://www.noteaccess.com/APPROACHES/ArtEd/ChildDev/1cNeurons.htm
  11. ^ Eric H. Chudler. "Brain Facts and Figures: Sensory Apparatus: Vision". Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  12. ^ http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/leapsec.html
  13. ^ CIA - The World Factbook -- Rank Order - Life expectancy at birth
  14. ^ Ribas, I.; et al. (2005). "First Determination of the Distance and Fundamental Properties of an Eclipsing Binary in the Andromeda Galaxy". Astrophysical Journal Letters. 635 (1): L37–L40. arXiv:astro-ph/0511045Freely accessible. Bibcode:2005ApJ...635L..37R. doi:10.1086/499161. 
  15. ^ Patterson N, Richter DJ, Gnerre S, Lander ES, Reich D (June 2006). "Genetic evidence for complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees". Nature. 441 (7097): 1103–8. doi:10.1038/nature04789. PMID 16710306. 
  16. ^ Renne, Paul R.; Deino, Alan L.; Hilgen, Frederik J.; Kuiper, Klaudia F.; Mark, Darren F.; Mitchell, William S.; Morgan, Leah E.; Mundil, Roland; Smit, Jan (7 February 2013). "Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary". Science. 339 (6120): 684–687. Bibcode:2013Sci...339..684R. doi:10.1126/science.1230492. PMID 23393261. 
  17. ^ Leong, Stacy (2002). "Period of the Sun's Orbit around the Galaxy (Cosmic Year)". The Physics Factbook. 
  18. ^ "Age of the Earth". U.S. Geological Survey. 1997. Retrieved January 10, 2006. 
  19. ^ Dalrymple, G. Brent (2001). "The age of the Earth in the twentieth century: a problem (mostly) solved". Special Publications, Geological Society of London. 190 (1): 205–221. Bibcode:2001GSLSP.190..205D. doi:10.1144/GSL.SP.2001.190.01.14. 
  20. ^ Manhesa, Gérard; Allègrea, Claude J.; Dupréa, Bernard & Hamelin, Bruno (1980). "Lead isotope study of basic-ultrabasic layered complexes: Speculations about the age of the earth and primitive mantle characteristics". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 47 (3): 370–382. Bibcode:1980E&PSL..47..370M. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(80)90024-2. 
  21. ^ Bouvier, Audrey and Meenakshi Wadhwa, "The age of the solar system redefined by the oldest Pb-Pb age of a meteoritic inclusion". Nature Geoscience, Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. Published online August 22, 2010, retrieved August 26, 2010, doi:10.1038/NGEO941.
  22. ^ Bonanno, A.; Schlattl, H.; Paternò, L. (2008). "The age of the Sun and the relativistic corrections in the EOS". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 390 (3): 1115–1118. arXiv:astro-ph/0204331Freely accessible. Bibcode:2002A&A...390.1115B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20020749. 

External links[edit]