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Facebook Invents New Unit of Time

A new way to measure the time you waste scrolling through your newsfeed, perhaps?

Facebook just came up with something that you may not expect, and it’s certainly not something you can share or feature on your timeline. A Facebook engineer invented a new unit of time called a Flick, short for frame-tick. A Flick is one seven hundred and five million six hundred thousandth of a second which makes it the smallest time unit after the nanosecond.

The purpose of the new measurement is not for dividing a day into a different unit, but to help developers keep video effects synchronised. This measurement was chosen because all framerates or frequencies used in encoding or showing things like films and music use 24 frames per second, 120 hertz TVs, and 44.1 KHz sample rate audio which means that, although this unit may seem like a strange choice at first, the new time measurement is actually very useful for programming that is used for film, television and other media. This is because it makes it easier for programmers to measure the time between media frames without using fractions. Films, for example, run at 24 frames per second, so each frame is .04166666667 seconds long. This can be rounded up in many different ways, for instance, .04167 or 0.417 which makes it hard for people working in visual effects and post-production to make sure that everything is in sync. Therefore, the reason for the invention of Flicks is to simplify these numbers to make everything clearer.

The creator of Flick, Christopher, Horvath, shared his idea publicly on Facebook in early 2017 and made modifications to the unit based on feedback from comments. “When working on creating visual effects for film, television, and other media, it is common to run simulations or other time-integrating processes which subdivide a single frame of time into a fixed, integer number of subdivisions,” explains Horvath. “It is handy to be able to accumulate these subdivisions to create exact 1-frame and 1-second intervals, for a variety of reasons.”

Therefore, the new unit of time is not going to have a big impact in general but improves the methods that are used to create better virtual experiences.

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