iSoul In the beginning is reality

Speed of information

Nowadays, we say that the speed of information is the speed of light. That is justified by the rôle of the speed of light in relativity, in which it is the speed of causation. But it is also justified by the use of electromagnetic waves to transmit information between people.

It was not always so. It took much longer for information to travel in the past.

A day’s journey in pre-modern literature, including the Bible, ancient geographers and ethnographers such as Herodotus, is a measurement of distance. In the Bible, it is not precisely defined; the distance has been estimated from 32 to 40 kilometers (20–25 miles). Wikipedia

A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse. No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat . . . no letter, no information, no idea, order, or instruction of any kind moved faster. Nothing ever had moved any faster.  Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage (Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 52.

The book A Farewell to Alms includes a table showing how long it took for news of sig­nif­i­cant events to reach London. Faster speeds resulted from the in­ven­tion and de­ploy­ment of the telegraph by 1880:

Speed of Information Travel to London, 1798-1914
Event Year Distance (miles) Days until report Speed (mph)
Battle of the Nile 1798 2073 62 1.4
Battle of Trafalgar 1805 1100 17 2.7
Earthquake, Kutch, India 1819 4118 153 1.1
Treaty of Nanking 1842 5597 84 2.8
Charge of the Light Brigade, Crimea 1854 1646 17 4.0
Indian Mutiny, Delhi Massacre 1857 4176 46 3.8
Treaty of TienSin (China) 1858 5140 82 2.6
Assassination of Lincoln 1865 3674 13 12
Assassination of Archduke Maximilian, Mexico 1867 5545 12 19
Assassination of Alexander II, St. Petersburg 1881 1309 0.46 119
Nobi Earthquake, Japan 1891 5916 1 246


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