I was at a professional dinner this week in which our hosts set the scene by lowering the lights and running a giant monitor which showed a video of a fireplace. It was kind of like that yule log video, but without the yule.

After dinner there were speeches, which at some point I started tuning out, as one does. Instead I focused on the fireplace videos.

First I set out to determine how long the video loop was, and exactly when it repeated. That turned out to be easy, because at some point a little spark floated up from one of the logs, froze in place for a moment mid-screen, and promptly vanished.

Counting off the seconds in my head, I determined that this little moment was repeating every thirty seconds. Which means it must have been repeating after exactly thirty seconds, because nobody makes a 29 second or 31 second video loop.

This was great, because it meant I could make a game out of it. As each loop repeated, I counted off seconds in my head, seeing how close I could get to reaching a count of 30 at exactly the right moment.

By the time the speeches ended, I had gotten really good at this. Using the fireplace video as my guide, I could now mentally count off seconds at a rate of exactly one second per count. I am sure this is a skill that will come in handy on many occasions.

Not having listened to the speeches, I am not in a position to judge whether they were good. But the other people in the room seemed really happy.

Which means that the other people in the room had really liked the speeches. Either that, or they had also been mentally counting off the seconds until the speeches were finished.

6 Responses to “Seconds”

  1. Adrian says:

    “it must have been repeating after exactly thirty seconds, because nobody makes a 29 second or 31 second video loop”

    If you have an NTSC-compatible frame rate of 29.97 frames per second, can you even make a 30-second video? You’d need 899.1 frames. 🙂

  2. admin says:

    Alas, I seriously doubt I could ever achieve such a high degree of accuracy in my temporal counting that it would make a difference.

    On the other hand, it is so wonderful that I have readers who are even more nerdy than I am. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. J. Peterson says:

    One use for the skill is distance measurement; sound travels a mile in 4.7 seconds.

    So if hear the thunder less than five seconds from the lightning flash, you know it’s less than a mile away.

  4. admin says:

    Yes! I’ve been doing that since I was a little kid. It’s very reassuring when the lightning turns out to be far away. Not so reassuring otherwise. :-/

  5. thibault says:

    Funny enough a few weeks ago I was in parisian’s bistrot where in place of candle lied tiny electronic candles. This marvelous things contain just a LED but mimick the flickering nature of the flame in a dazingly organic way. I first though to be some kind of procedural gradient noise but figure it would have been overkill. Fixating the things more vividly a pattern began to emerge, the dancing flickers of the plastic fire repeating itself every sixteen seconds or so. Once a saw the pattern it was impossible to not see it, on the one from my table but the others as well. Sadly observation made the magic vanished, transforming my sense of wonder to the satisfaction of an enigm resolved.

    Everything transform itself and remain the same, yet sometimes I wonder if I would not have preferred to continue dreaming as of whom cast the shadow on my walls.

  6. admin says:

    A colleague of mine once told me that there was a gritty cop show he really enjoyed watching, until the day he noticed that the background sounds in the police station were being looped. That ruined it for him.

    Sigh — it’s all very sad. Although your lovely Plato’s Cave imagery really cheered me up. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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