A cheetah chases its prey at 75 mph. The Maglev—the magnetic levitation railway that's part of Japan's “bullet” system—broke a land speed record in April 2015, clocking at 375 mph. Loaded with passengers and cargo, a Boeing 747 zips across the sky at 570 mph. A .223-caliber bullet leaves the muzzle of an AR-15 at 2,250 mph.

In 1931, at MIT, in a moment that fathered the modern electric flash, graduate student Harold Edgerton married a camera to a stroboscope, a device invented 100 years earlier to study machinery in motion by making it appear to stand still. Edgerton's hybrid apparatus, which used electronically charged neon tubes that fired high-speed shots of light, breached the limitations of the camera's shutter. It could catch movements as brief as .000003 of a second in duration.

At 6:40 a.m., on March 30, 2013, a killer entered the home of Mike and Cynthia McLelland....

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