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nanosecond (ns or nsec)

(This definition follows U.S. usage in which a billion is a thousand million and a trillion is a 1 followed by 12 zeros.)

A nanosecond (ns or nsec) is one billionth (10-9) of a second and is a common measurement of read or write access time to random access memory (RAM). Admiral Grace Hopper famously handed out foot-long lengths of wire to students to illustrate how far an electrical signal can travel in a nanosecond.

For comparison, a millisecond (ms or msec) is one thousandth of a second and is commonly used in measuring the time to read to or write from a hard disk or a CD-ROM player or to measure packet travel time on the Internet.

A microsecond (us or Greek letter mu plus s) is one millionth (10-6) of a second.

A picosecond is one trillionth (10-12) of a second, or one millionth of a microsecond.

A femtosecond is one millionth of a nanosecond or 10-15 of a second and is a measurement sometimes used in laser technology.

An attosecond is one quintillionth (10-18) of a second and is a term used in photon research.


See also: Grace Hopper nanosecond.

This was last updated in July 2006
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