Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Speed

459 words

Many things are about speed today. People want instant coffee, gigahertz computers and immediate answers to their phone calls. But what about speed as in velocity? In some sense I feel it hasn't increased too much: While the surrounding infrastructure is much more efficient these days than it was twenty years ago, actually flying on a plane isn't much faster. – Considering the demise of Concorde, the top speed was actually lowered quite a bit.

In other places, such as trains, there has been a considerable increase in speed with high speed trains running along major routes. High speed trains routinely go at 250 km/h, many of them even faster. The strange thing is that the journey doesn't feel faster but rather smoother than in older trains.

I started thinking about this while dozing away being driven in my dad's car today. Cars seem to unite both of those observations: While they're more powerful these days than they were twenty years ago and they offer a smoother – and hopefully safer – ride at the same speeds, the time you need to cover from our house in Bremen to my grandma's near Göttingen has been close to 2h30' for as long as I can remember - and that's without traffic jams.

Even in medium priced and powered cars you can easily cruise at 160 these days without taking much notice of the fact that this is in fact an enormous speed and can be quite dangerous. The fact that cars are so powerful means that even at those speeds there can still be other people flashing past you at even higher velocities.

I tend to find this quite dangerous. Going at high speeds means you have to pay much more attention – safety distance being not linear but quadratic in the speed and all. I am not sure to which extent you'd be actually be able to cope with dangers at such high speeds. In addition those cars make it quite easy to end up at high speeds. Years ago I drove my dad's car and ended up going 180 or so. The bad thing was that I wasn't aware of that but thought I was going at a bit over 140 or so, with everything feeling quite smooth. The fact that the car has a speedometer with a scale that has 160 at the top, i.e. where you'd expect 100 or 120, because it goes all the way up to 280 for some reason that I don't understand, seeing that the car can 'only' do around 200.

You'll have to work hard to get that kind of energy into your body just by eating – about 55 BigMacs or so. I find all of this dangerous.

November 10, 2003, 11:07

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