Everyone Is Jumping Off the Brooklyn Bridge

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Words to Your Mother: Jiffy

Jiffy Pop
It may cook fast, but it doesn't cook that fast.

In an attempt to live up to my title, I'm using a word that—in addition to being mom-friendly—is a word you may have actually used to your mother in the past. For example, "I'll be there in a jiffy", which, as it turns out, was probably not true at any time that you said it.

A jiffy is, in its loosest definition, a moment of time. However, there's no fun in that.

For computing, a jiffy is a fairly short period of time, typically amounting to 0.0100 seconds, or the duration of the system timer interrupt.

In electronics, a jiffy is 0.0167-0.0200 seconds, or the time that it takes to alternate power cycles in AC current. (Yes, AC current is redundant. So sue me. Or injure me and send me to the ER room1. Or take away my NIC card2 so I can't post any more: I'll just buy another once I have a chance to stop by the ATM machine3. But I digress.)

Not content to have a lengthy jiffy, computers fought back: A jiffy in the Linux 2.6.13+ kernel is 0.0040 seconds. In Linux 2.6.0–2.6.12 it is even shorter: 0.0010 seconds.

Unfortunately, the physicists had to show off again: Although the definition can vary, one of the more common definitions is the amount of time it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum. That's 0.000000000333564 seconds.

Of course, the quantum physicists had to top that, and go for the amount of time it takes for light to travel across a fermi. We're down to 0.00000000000000000000001 seconds here.

So, again, it was unlikely that you were actually there in a jiffy. In fact, depending on your definition, you probably took a few billion of them.


1 Okay, I actually really hate this one.

2 This gets on my nerves too.

3 I don't really care about this too much for some reason.

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