Amazing Facts About Speed

January 29, 2015

supersonic 1004 1280“I have a need…a need for speed.” These were the word’s immortalized by Maverick in Top Gun right before he did that reverse high-five thing with Goose that became all the rage in the 80’s with teenagers and grown-ups alike.  But what do you really know about speed?  Here are some interesting facts that deal only in the world of speed.

Amazing Speed Facts

Speed is a relative measurement, and the constant by which all objects are measured is the speed of light.  Light moves at 186,282 miles per second, or 671 million miles per hour.  It takes light from the sun 8 minutes to reach earth and 5.3 hours to reach Pluto, our now non-planet.  To get to the nearest star to us, Proxima Centauri, takes light about four and a half years.  To cross the width of just our own galaxy takes light 100,000 years.

cheetah 289371 1280By all accounts and measures the cheetah, like we learned in school, is the fastest animal on land.  It has the capability to reach phenomenal speeds.  There is a little bit of a discrepancy on how fast the cheetah can really run.  64 mph was the single measurement taken in the 1960’s, and the one used for years as the maximum speed of a cheetah, but somehow researchers in 2013 were able to get a more accurate record.  They studied five wild cheetahs over 367 runs and came up with a maximum speed of 58 mph.  Still, not to shabby.

peregrine falcon 371610 1280Another animal which can reach amazing speeds are peregrine falcons.  In a dive they can reach speeds up to and exceeding 200 mph.  Now that is impressive.  But what about animals in the water.  Which is the fastest?  That title belongs to the Atlantic sailfish, which can clock a speed of 68 mph in water.

Lockheed SR 71 BlackbirdThe Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird holds the fastest speed record for a manned, air-breathing jet aircraft.  It reached a speed of 2,193 mph on July 28, 1976 near Beale Air Force Base.  It also holds the record for fastest crossing of America.  The Blackbird crossed the country from west to east in 64 minutes in 1990 as the airplane was being flown to a museum to be retired.  In comparison, a flight on a commercial flight from Los Angeles to New York takes around five and a half hours. The Blackbird did have an interesting characteristic, among its many unique characteristics.  The components of the Blackbird were loosely fit together to allow the parts to expand at the high temperatures the aircraft would experience at such high speeds.  On the ground, the fuel would leak from the plane constantly until the aircraft got to operating temperatures in the air.  When it got there the Blackbird’s parts would seal together.

space shuttle 600992 1280The fastest overall aircraft ever was the Space Shuttle, which would reach speeds of 17,500 mph, and it could orbit the earth in 1 hour and 25 minutes.  In relation to that, the speed of the earth’s rotation from a spot on the earth is 1,040 mph.  And you probably didn’t know you were moving about a mile every three and a half seconds.  But the earth moving around the sun is going at an even greater clip, traveling at 67,062 mph.

The fastest measured wind speed not related to tornadoes used to be claimed by Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 1934 of 231 mph, but that speed has since been eclipsed by a reported wind speed of 253 mph in 2010 at Barrow Island in Australia during Cyclone Olivia.  The Mount Washington record was not associated with any extreme meteorological event, however. Good luck trying to fly a kite in either of those winds.

Hennessy Venom GT Flickr Supermac1961

The fastest production car in the world broke the record in 2014.  It’s the Hennessey Venom GT, and it made it to 270.49 mph at Kennedy Space Center.  The previous record holder was the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport at 269.86 mph.  You can pick up a Hennessey Venom GT for the low price of $1.2 million.


Austrian Felix Baumgartner set the record for the highest speed recorded during a freefall in 2012.  He went 833.9 mph and broke the sound barrier with his body in the process.  He also broke the record for highest freefall when he leapt from 228,000 feet.  Just to put it in perspective, an airliner typical cruises at around 35,000 feet and cruises roughly around 515 mph depending on the type of aircraft and wind speed.

Usain Bolt 2012 Olympics
Nick Webb/Wikimedia

Sprinter Usain Bolt may be the fastest runner of all time right now, but is he the fastest runner ever in the history of mankind?  In 2003, archaeologists from Bond University found human footprints in the Australian Outback that dated back 20,000 years.  They determined that one of the males that they called T8 was running at 23 mph.  Bolt’s record for running speed is 27.44 mph.  This is fascinating because the scientists determined that T8 was running this fast in mud, barefoot, and he was even accelerating before the tracks stopped.  What speed could T8 possibly hit if he had been able to run under the conditions Bolt has, such as spiked, technological advanced shoes and a smooth, engineered track?  We’ll never know, but it is interesting to ponder the idea. (Source)

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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