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Single penny could buy over three hours of thought

A penny could in theory purchase 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds of thought based on basic calculations, according to a new UK study that examined the energy and cost required to run a human brain.

world Updated: Aug 12, 2015 23:26 IST
A-representational-photo--Shutterstock
A-representational-photo--Shutterstock

A penny could in theory purchase 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds of thought based on basic calculations, according to a new UK study that examined the energy and cost required to run a human brain.

The study at the University of Leicester tested the popular idiom ‘A penny for your thoughts’ by working out how much of a person’s thought could theoretically be purchased with a single penny. The study suggests that a penny could, in theory, purchase 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds of thought according to Natural Sciences student Osarenkhoe Uwuigbe from the University of Leicester’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science.

Uwuigbe first investigated how much power is needed to produce thought.The study examined the power necessary for the brain — which consumes roughly 20% of the body’s energy — Given that the average power consumption of a typical adult is approximately 100 watts, the student calculated that the power necessary to run a human brain and produce thought is roughly 20% of this — or 20 watts.

To apply monetary value to thought, the price per kilowatt hour (kWh) charged by UK energy companies was calculated, settling on 16 pence per kWh, which is within the range of prices typically charged by UK energy companies. Assuming that it requires 20 W or 1/50 kW to produce thought, charging 16p per kWh means that one penny can purchase 1/16th of a kWh.

Therefore the length of time (in hours) a penny can purchase thought for is 1/16 divided by 1/50 = 3.125.

The study was published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University of Leicester’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science.