The speed of information, or lack thereof

Kottke:

Michael Stillwell pulled an interesting chart out of a book called A Farewell to Alms. It’s a table of the speed of important news reaching London. For instance, in 1805 the news of the Battle of Trafalgar took 17 days to travel the 1100 miles to London; that’s a speed of 2.7 mph. By 1891 when the Nobi earthquake occurred in Japan, it only took the news one day to travel 5916 miles, a speed of 246 mph.

Nowadays an email or a Twitter update can travel halfway around the world nearly instantaneously. The 2008 Sichaun earthquake occurred 5100 miles from London with the first Twitter update in English occurring about 7 minutes after the quake started. Assuming the message was read a minute later by someone in London, that’s 38,250 mph. Had the Twitter updater been right at the epicenter and able to send a Twitter message 30 seconds after the quake started and was read a minute later in London, that’s 204,000 mph. Five orders of magnitude improvement in 200 years…not too shabby.

And health care still can’t get hospitals across town from one another to transmit important medical information.

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