#20: 1.21 whats?

The Question

What is a Jiggawatt? Also, what is the scientific significant of having 1.21 of them? Is that some kind of Golden Number for engineers?

Comment by Paul — 1/21/2005 @ 1:45 am

The Answer

Someone isn’t very good with their science.

Doc Brown created a time machine. He did it with style. But from his own mouth, the Flux Capacitor needs 1.21 Jiggawatts to power it.

Okay, so let’s assume that Doc Brown is not an English major and doesn’t know how to pronounce the word correctly. Let’s assume he really means Gigawatts.

Doc Brown states that he needs a nuclear reaction to generate that much power. This is true. However, the most powerful nuclear reactor in the US can only produce 1.26 Gigawatts at full power – and it’s a huge facility. Probably not the kind of reactor that can fit in a Delorian.

Once Marty travels back to the past, he’s out of plutonium. No nuclear reaction with plutonium, right? The past version of Doc Brown states that the only thing capable of producing 1.21 Gigawatts of power in the past is a bolt of lightning.

Again, true in a sense.

The average bolt of lightning has 1 billion volts and can be at anywhere from 10,000 to 200,000 amps. V * I = P.

The truth is, a bolt of lightning can produce anywhere from 10,000 to 200,000 Gigawatts. That’s probably enough to fry the time circuits, unless Doc Brown had a really fat resistor lying around.

As to the significance of the number “1.21”, I can’t find any significance at all. The Golden Ratio (Phi), e, pi, they all have no relation to “1.21”. I can only imagine that Doc Brown’s birthday was January 21….

4 thoughts on “#20: 1.21 whats?

  • 3/2/2005 at 8:31 am

    Wow. Good answer. I think I appreciate these science questions the most because it is clear that you definitely do your research. Well done Shaun McQuaid.

  • 3/3/2005 at 9:45 am

    I just watched the movie. It was good.

  • 3/10/2005 at 1:33 pm

    Didn’t know lightning bolts were so powerful. Thanks Shaun! Despite ruinning my hopes of building a Delorean into a time machine with a flux capacitor, I can now watch the movies again without daydreaming about 1.21 Jigawatts and just enjoy the show.


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