Re: HUMOR: Odd time units...

From: Martin Ling (
Date: Thu May 11 2000 - 06:03:44 MDT

On Wed, May 10, 2000 at 04:42:30PM -0700, Doug Jones wrote:
> Martin Ling wrote:
> >
> > On Wed, May 10, 2000 at 09:30:23AM -0400, Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> > > Here's some funny trivia about som units of time you might not be aware of:
> [snip]
> > > Anyone else have some funny units to share?
> >
> > 'Microfortnight'
> >
> > (twenty minutes)
> >
> > Martin
> Part of the finest crock unit: the attoparsec per microfortnight
> attoparsec
> n. About an inch. 'atto-' is the standard SI prefix for multiplication
> by 10^(-18). A parsec
> (parallax-second) is 3.26 light-years; an attoparsec is thus 3.26 *
> 10^(-18) light years, or
> about 3.1 cm (thus, 1 attoparsec/microfortnight equals about 1
> inch/sec). This unit is
> reported to be in use (though probably not very seriously) among hackers
> in the U.K.

Aha... should have checked The File first of course.

Being a UK hacker, I can confirm it circulates. I remembered there being
a distance component around to produce a velocity, but I wasn't sure
what it was - so I thought I'd share the microfortnight bit, which is
frequently given as an estimate of time for a task or journey.

I don't *think* what I heard had been attoparsec, as I'm sure it
resolved to something more useful than an inch per second - miles per
hour or meters per second, perhaps.

Could well have been another SI prefix of parsec however - I'll see
what I get for other multipliers.


Aha - it is of course millifortnight which is twenty minutes.



n. 1/1000000 of the fundamental unit of time in the Furlong/Firkin/Fortnight system of measurement; 1.2096 sec. (A furlong is 1/8th of a mile; a firkin is 1/4th of a barrel; the mass unit of the system is taken to be a firkin of water). The VMS operating system has a lot of tuning parameters that you can set with the SYSGEN utility, and one of these is TIMEPROMPTWAIT, the time the system will wait for an operator to set the correct date and time at boot if it realizes that the current value is bogus. This time is specified in microfortnights!

Multiple uses of the millifortnight (about 20 minutes) and nanofortnight have also been reported.


And nanofortnight is 1.2msec, which I recall a couple of hackers at Cambridge's computer lab giving as the ping time between two machines on an ethernet link.


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