What does it mean?

If you've talked about speed in your physics class, you'll know that:

speed = total distance / total time

But just how fast can things be? What is the fastest thing in the universe?

One Word Science is trying to find out. Have a look at what they found:

  • Stealth - the rollercoaster at Thorpe Park - goes from 0 to 80 miles per hour in just 2.3 seconds. Wow! I've been on's fast!


  • The Mercedes-Benz SLS-AMG car can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour. That's 115 metres per second - the speed of a very fast hurricane.
  • Concorde can reach 600 metres per second - twice the speed of sound!

But what's the fastest thing in the universe? You'll have to watch the One Word Science video to find out:

What's the fastest thing where you live? Although you might not be able to measure the speed of light, you can measure lots of other things, from snails to buses! Just remember that:

speed = total distance / total time

To investigate the speed of objects where you live, choose a fixed distance and measure it. If you're measuring the speed of cars, bikes or buses, you could use the distance between two lampposts - remember to use caution when near a road. Then, using a stopwatch, measure the time it takes for a car to travel between the two lampposts.

You can work out the speed of the car using this equation:

speed of car = distance between two lamposts / time taken for a car to travel the distance between two lamposts

Speed camera_93608125

This is how many speed cameras work - they take a picture of a car at point 'a'. Several hundred metres along the road a second photograph is taken at point 'b'. The time that the photographs were taken is recorded. The speed camera can then calculate the average speed of the car.

If you've got your dog or cat well-trained, you could even measure their speed! Measure a fixed distance in your garden or a park and get your dog to sit at one end. Then, measure the time it takes for your dog to run the whole distance. Have you got a lazy Labrador or a speedy spaniel?

Curriculum information

  • Summary


    Curriculum key wordsOther web links
    • 5
    Science Curriculum Links
    National CurriculumCurriculum for excellenceNorthern Ireland Curriculum