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Facebook invented a new unit of time

The Oculus team at Facebook has invented a new unit of time known as the “flick” that could help make video and audio production much smoother.

This time measurement is one seven hundred and five million six hundred thousandth of a second. While it may seem odd to focus on such a small duration, 1/706,600,000 is an important number because it divides evenly into 8, 16, 22.05, 24, 25, 30, 32, 44.1, 48, 50, 60, 90, 100, 120. All of those numbers are either framerates, frequencies, or mediums like film or music. For example, 24 frames per second, 120 hertz TVs, and 44.1 Khz sample rate audio.

Nearly all fractions used in current encoding resolve into inconvenient decimal series, which then requires shorthand or estimations. For instance, the 1/24th of a second used throughout the entire film industry is equal to 0.041666666666666. As a result, it is typically abbreviated to 0.04167 for convenience, TechCrunch reports.

In contrast, if researchers use flicks, almost all of the important fractional frequencies turn into exact round numbers that do not need estimation. If you use Facebook’s new measurement with 1/24th of a second, it breaks down into a clean 29,400,000 flicks.

While those numbers can still be difficult for humans to remember, they are easy for computer systems to match up without creating a inter-format fraction that has to be resolved by adjusting frequency.

“When the numbers used are not integers, errors can gradually creep into computer calculations. These errors can build up over time, eventually causing inaccuracies that become noticeable,” said Matt Hammond, lead research engineer at BBC Research and Development, according to BBC News.

This new measurement eliminates the fractions or decimals needed in such systems, opening the door for much cleaner computations down the line. Fractions have long been a problem for numerous technological industries, and the flick could help fix those issues. 

“[I] think perhaps a very fixed way of describing these time steps allows for developers to have a bit more flexibility in dealing with latency issues and making sure videos stay in sync,” added an Oxford University professor who asked not to be identified, according to BBC News.

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