Breaking a Minute Into Seconds

A hummingbird flaps its wings several times each second. You need to know that there are sixty (60) seconds in each minute. Why do you need to know about seconds? Clocks work on a system of seconds. They count down sixty movements of a second hand to complete a minute. But why sixty? In the same way that there are sixty minutes in an hour, a minute was originally broken up into sixty seconds because that's how it was done for hundreds of years. It all started with the Babylonians who liked to measure things with amounts of sixty. If clock systems were rebuilt today, we might break hours down into hundred minute increments and those minutes might have one hundred seconds each. You never know.

Seconds Used in Science

Seconds are a fundamental unit in science. They are classified as the SI unit for time. SI Units are an international system of units that all of science uses. It helps to make observation and measurement consistent no matter what your experiment or your type of equipment. Because so much in science happens in a short amount of time, seconds have been used as the fundamental unit. In physics you will learn about meters per second. You may read about liters per seconds that would be a measure of the flow of a fluid. If you see a "per second" in the units you will be looking at the speed of something.

Smaller Than a Second

Is there anything smaller than a second is? Sure there is. For units of time smaller than a second you need to know that we use the decimal system, not units of sixty. You see amounts smaller than a second in all sorts of sports and science activities. How fast does someone run? How much time is left on the clock? How long did it take for that reaction to occur. It all needs to be measured in amounts smaller than a second. Here are some examples:
14.5 Seconds = Fourteen and five tenths of a second. (Basketball)
14.58 Seconds = Fourteen and fifty-eight hundredths of a second. (Track and Field)
14.583 Seconds = Fourteen and five hundred eighty-three thousandths of a second. (Chemistry)

Details to Remember

- There are 60 seconds in each minute
- Amounts smaller than a second are measured with decimals.

Related Activities

Date and Time Activity "How Much Time has Passed?" in Minutes
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Date and Time Activity "What Time is it?" with no Numbers on the Clock
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