Converting 1 Second to Microseconds: How-To & Tutorial

Instructor: Thomas Higginbotham

Tom has taught math / science at secondary & post-secondary, and a K-12 school administrator. He has a B.S. in Biology and a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction.

Advances in technology have required the adoption of smaller and smaller units of time, like the microseconds used in many science and engineering applications. In this lesson, you'll learn how to convert seconds to microseconds.

Different Time Units

We all know there are different units for time. We talk about our life spans in years, not minutes. We talk about a vacation in terms of weeks, not centuries. We talk about the time it takes to complete a 100-meter sprint in terms of seconds, not months.

Most likely, there are enough commonly used time units to fit pretty much any situation, right? Wrong. Take a full second, and divide it into tenths. Now, take one of those tenths and split it into tenths again, again, again and again.

Who would do that, and why? Well, there are some people who use time units of microseconds, or one 1-millionth of a second. We're going to learn more about them, and how to convert from seconds to microseconds.

Who Uses Microseconds?

There are many people who use microseconds, a number that is increasingly seen as faster computer chips and other technological innovations require smaller and smaller units of time. For example, computers are now used to trade stocks on a global level, while computer algorithms often help firms determine whether to buy, sell or hold stocks based on very small fluctuations in price. Computers can share that information across the globe in millionths of a second. Firms that can send that information just slightly faster than other companies can use that lag in time to amass substantial profits and significantly impact stock prices.

This practice is known as high-frequency trading. The amount of money that investment and other related firms are spending on shaving microseconds from information travel time is evidence of how important microseconds can be. Some surgical lasers do their work with short bursts of laser energy, tens or hundreds of microseconds long. Lasers used to assess speed can also send out microsecond-long bursts separated by only a few dozen microseconds. For instance, the Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan of 2011 shifted the mass of the earth enough to cause its daily rotation to change by an estimated 1.8 microseconds.

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