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Light is fast. In fact, it is the fastest thing that exists, and a law of the universe is thatnothing can move faster than light. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second (300,000 kilometers per second) and can go from the Earth to the Moon in just over a second. Light can streak from Los Angeles to New York in less than the blink of an eye.

While 1% of anything doesn’t sound like much, with light, that’s still really fast — close to 7 million miles per hour! At 1% the speed of light, it would take a little over a second to get from Los Angeles to New York. This is more than 10,000 times faster than a commercial jet.

Bullets can go 2,600 mph (4,200 km/h), more than three times the speed of sound. The fastest aircraft is NASA’s X3 jet plane, with a top speed of 7,000 mph (11,200 km/h). That sounds impressive, but it’s still only 0.001% the speed of light.

The fastest human-made objects are spacecraft. They use rockets to break free of the Earth’s gravity, which takes a speed of 25,000 mph (40,000 km/h). The spacecraft that is traveling the fastest is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. After it launched from Earth in 2018, it skimmed the Sun’s scorching atmosphere and used the Sun’s gravity to reach 330,000 mph (535,000 km/h). That’s blindingly fast — yet only 0.05% of the speed of light.

What’s holding humanity back from reaching 1% of the speed of light? In a word, energy. Any object that’s moving has energy due to its motion. Physicists call this kinetic energy. To go faster, you need to increase kinetic energy. The problem is that it takes a lot of kinetic energy to increase speed. To make something go twice as fast takes four times the energy. Making something go three times as fast requires nine times the energy, and so on.

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