Ten Years in the Life

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The Post 10th birthday banner as designed by TavaronA jumble of brightly-coloured magnetic numbers on a fridge door.

It's anniversary time again, and what a special one this is! It's the tenth! We should all celebrate the fact. I mean, it's far more important than the ninth, say, or the eleventh, isn't it?

It's all to do with the number - it's suddenly grown in size. It's twice as big as last year's number. Well, I say 'twice as big', but that's not in the numeric sense: ten isn't twice as big as nine - it's only 11.1% bigger. No, it's in the way we write it down: the digit 1 followed by the digit 0. Two digits rather than one. The next increase in the number of digits won't happen for another 90 years. Amazing. Let's have a party.

For the last two anniversaries I wrote about the periods of time that the h2g2 Post had been in existence – eight and nine years respectively – and what we might otherwise have done with the time. This year I've just had a short ramble through a few search engines, to see if this can shed some light on what a ten year period really means to us.

10 Years - the Band

If you Google '10 Years', you'll find the official site for an alternative metal band of that name from Knoxville, Tennessee. At the time of writing, they were formed 10 years ago, which is quite spooky. It's not clear what an 'alternative metal' band is, though – maybe they use plastic instruments or something. In fact, Wikipedia also lists the band under the genre 'Post-grunge', which sounds to me like the rotting detritus you'd find down the back of a Royal Mail sorting machine when you move it for cleaning after 10 years.

Researchers of a certain age may also remember the British blues band Ten Years After, so named because they were formed ten years after Elvis Presley shot to fame in 1956. The band is still active, although they have now parted company with iconic guitarist Alvin Lee. At the time of writing, they are touring the European mainland.

10 Years Younger - the TV Show

Google also finds the website for the Channel 4 makeover show 10 Years Younger. I haven't caught the show, I'm sorry to say, but it appears from its website that women volunteer each week to undergo invasive cosmetic surgery in an attempt to make themselves look superficially younger by ten years. Plenty of gory clips are available for download, if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I prefer those shows where people try to make their house look ten years younger by hiring Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen to paint the kitchen pink.

Ten Years of Democracy

One other site featuring high in a Google search is www.tenyearson.org, a shrine to ten years of democracy in South Africa, celebrated in 2004. The site features some absorbing multimedia features on the struggle to end the Apartheid regime and how the new nation has been built.

Ten Years to a Scientist

Finally, if you want to know how a scientist thinks about anything, just type it into Wolfram Alpha, the 'computational knowledge engine'. Having done this I can reveal that 10 years is also:

  • 3,650 days (actually, that's not quite right, is it?),
  • 87,600 hours,
  • 1 decade,
  • 3.154x10^8 seconds,
  • 9.992893 anomalistic years, or
  • 9.99298135653 sidereal years.

This brainbox also tells us that 10 years is approximately '0.53 x the turnover time of terrestrial organic plant matter'. So if your plant died when the h2g2 Post was first launched, then it would now be over half way towards recycling itself as another plant.

Sadly, Wolfram Alpha isn't yet the know-all it aspires to be, and it doesn't take a lot to fool it. If you type in 'h2g2' it interprets it as 'h^2 square grads'. This is a solid angle, where 1 square grad equals 2.467x10^-4 steradians. And that's nothing to do with cleaning your false teeth.

As a final aside, Wolfram also has access to financial data, and if you type in two stocks it shows all the data you'll ever need to compare them. Sadly, when I tried this it didn't work. It hadn't even heard of Oxo.

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