Almost everybody likes speed. The thought of going faster than anyone else has inspired man: everything from countless drag racing movie scenes to the use of steroids in pursuit of the title of “World’s Fastest Human”. I knew a few of the “fastest things” below – the fastest animal and bird – but was surprised about several of the others.
Up until midcentury, the fastest thing in the world, apart from light, was sound. Travelling at 343 meters per second (1230 kph or 767 mph), sound was faster than even the most devastating craft of war.
But then, in 1947, Air Force Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager broke the sound barrier in Glamorous Glennis, his Bell X-1 aircraft. It was such an accomplishment at the time that he and the team he worked with were honored at the White House by Commander in Chief Harry S. Truman.
The next year, in 1948, a Northrop unmanned rocket sled became the first land vehicle to achieve supersonic speed, reaching 1,020 mph before careening off the rails. “She jumps the tracks! Rocket on a rampage!” The news announcer chirped on a broadcast announcing the news.
Then, in 2010, Felix Baumgartner became the first human projectile to break the sound barrier when he successfully completed a Red Bull sponsored free fall from the edge of the atmosphere down to the New Mexican desert.
In short, humans like speed. We like extremes. We like telling Mother Nature that, with labs, we can supersede her. So, with that said, hunker down and get ready to find out the 10 fastest things in the world.
1. Fastest Land Animal
Although a cheetah has spots, it typically just becomes a black-and-beige blur as it skitters through the air at speeds up to 75 miles per hour. That’s right: the cheetah can run as fast as a greyhound… bus. Its acceleration can get up to 62 mph in the first 3 seconds of its sprint, which is faster than most cars. To think that a gazelle, although quick, can only run at about 50 mph tops, it’s a wonder that there are any of them left since they are one of the cheetah’s main sources of tasty, rare meat.
2. The Fastest Rollercoaster
The fastest rollercoaster in the world is called the Formula Rossa and is located at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. This rollercoaster is launched, meaning that it used hydraulic pressure to propel it to its top speed (150 mph, by the way, which it reaches in approximately 5 seconds.) Because of its extreme speed, the track is also very long (or else the ride wouldn’t last any time at all), coming in at 2.2 km, or the world’s 6th longest. It goes so fast that the people who ride it need to wear protective goggles, lest they come into contact with an insect-turned-diamond by speed.
3. Fastest Spacecraft
New Horizons is a NASA robotic spacecraft mission currently en route to the planet Pluto. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to fly by and study Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, and Hydra. New Horizons was launched on 19 January 2006 directly into an Earth-and-solar-escape trajectory. It had an Earth-relative velocity of about 16.26 km/s or 58,536 km/h (10.1 mps or 36,360 mph) after its last engine shut down. Thus, it left Earth at the fastest speed ever recorded. It will arrive at Pluto on 14 July 2015 then continue into the Kuiper belt.
4. Fastest Wind
On May 3, 1999 as tornadoes ravaged Oklahoma scientists measured the highest recorded wind speed at about 7:00 p.m. near Moore, Oklahoma. A wind speed of 318 mph was recorded where a tornado killed four people and destroyed 250 homes. The fastest wind measured prior was 286 mph on April 26, 1991 in a tornado near Red Rock, Oklahoma. The 318 mph speed placed the tornado 1 mph below an F6 on the 0 to 6 Fujita scale. No tornado has ever been classified as an F6.
5. The Fastest Plane
The fastest plane on earth (the fastest plane off earth?) is the SR-71 Blackbird. Although it’s almost more than a century old, it remains the fastest vessel in flight. No plane has beaten it since, in speed. It can thank its engine nacelle for its haste. It has bypass tubes that only activate after it reaches mach 2.2, which funnel air into the afterburner and make the plane a paragon of fuel and energy efficiency, even this late in the game. The piece of equipment is, none-too-surprisingly, an American creation, which was retired from the USAF in ‘98 and from NASA in ’99.
6. The Fastest Rapper
NoClue, born Ricky Raphael Brown, is an American rapper from California. He has two EPs, a mixtape, and the honor of being the fastest rapper ever recorded (to be honest, we thought it would be Twista or Busta, too.) In 2005, before a licensed speech therapist, NoClue attempted to snag the record. He managed to spit 723 syllables in 51.27 seconds, which amounts to more or less 14.1 syllables per second. We found a little video of NoClue rapping on YouTube. It’s too fast to be made out, but it sounds a lot like something on fast-forward, meaning he’s not saying nonsense.
7. The Fastest Ambulance
The world’s fastest ambulance, the Lotus Evora, was premiered at Gitex in Dubai’s World Trade Center. This emergency vehicle is absolutely one of a kind, being made out of a $150,000 car. At that price, it can reach 185 miles per hour, which is tempered a little by the fact that it’s only a two-seater, but in matters of life and death, every second counts. The ambulance is outfitted with a control box, a siren, flashing lights, and a hard-screen notebook that allows the paramedics to send information about the passenger to the hospital they’re travelling towards.
8. The Fastest Computer
Does it come as any kind of surprise that the fastest computer in the world, called the Tianhe-2, would come from China? The orient is a mysterious locale of technological supremacy. This particular computer can run 33.86 quadrillion floating point operations in 1 second. That’s 4000 times better than Apple’s most powerful Mac. It’s located in China’s National University of Defense Technology. It runs on a form of Linux that was specifically designed for it by that institution and costs more or less $390 million.
9. Fastest Fish
Sailfish are two species of fishes in the genus Istiophorus, living in warmer sections of all the oceans of the world. They are blue to grey in color and have a characteristic erectile dorsal fin known as a sail, which often stretches the entire length of the back. Another notable characteristic is the elongated bill, resembling that of the swordfish and other marlins. Individuals have been clocked at speeds of up to 110 km/h (70 mph), which is the highest speed reliably reported in a fish. If this fish could travel on land, it can easily outrace a driver on a typical freeway.