The Problem With The Bugatti Veyron

The problem with the Veyron is that no matter how powerful your car, you can only go as fast as the road permits.

I'm not talking about speed limits; I mean to say that most roads just aren't big enough to really flex a thousand horsepower, 250 mile an hour car. Take in traffic and you're stuck with a car that reminds you, all the time, that you're never going as fast as it could go. That's the problem with all supercars these days, as we've already said.

The idea of a car only going as fast as road conditions allow came up today when we were talking about how much faster information moves today than it did 200 years ago. Kilkelly pointed out that this kind of restriction applies to data as well.

Postal services carried letters and OTHER mail. Most of that mail isn't movable through a Cat5 cable at the moment, because it's stuff, rather than paper. For a moment, though, let's assume that telegrams don't exist, and that the USPS really did move a ton of small messages to people all the time. The USPS gets messages to people within the week.

Let's assume that the competition (Emailpostalco) does something similar, but they say it's faster. They break information up into packets, and each of these packets is put in an individual postal truck that moves at an impossibly high speed, and delivers it to a destination where it is reassembled. Data moves at a rate determined by the bandwidth of the medium it travels through (think: number of lanes on a freeway), and that means that the larger the amount of data, the longer it will take, because we've got to put it in more trucks, get those trucks on the road. The road, our driveway, and our loading dock only accommodate so many trucks at a time. So let's assume that we've got a letter to deliver, and we do this- fine; it's pretty fast because we have enough trucks, docks and space on the freeway, until we get to the place it's supposed to go- the road narrows down to 1 lane, and parking is limited to one vehicle at a time. This slows things down quite a bit. For a single message, the average time is pretty fast, just as it is with a telegram. A few seconds, maybe a minute or two. For multiples, that adds up. When you get to bigger things, like catalogues, books, backup tapes it can take hours or days. (you try downloading a 10gb file on a DSL connection). So realistically, ALL the information isn't moving at the same speed. Sometimes it's just faster to fedex a harddrive full of data than it is to send it down the wire, because that 100gb backup will take a day of "travel" time on the internet, and a day of actual travel with a courier.

All that said, even the big stuff still moves bloody fast. Not as fast as you think, but about as fast as human beings can manage.

Photo Credit: E-Magine Photography