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Here is a sentence from an article on http://www.bbc.com/:

The rocks also don't slide around very often - scientists estimate only a few minutes out of a million - which is why the event has not been noticed before.

I think the word "minute" refers here to the unit of angular measurement and not to the unit of time. However, I am still puzzled by the phrase "scientists estimate only a few minutes out of a million". What does it mean?

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The phrase defines not ... very often more precisely:

Scientists estimate that the rocks slide around for only a few minutes during every million minutes.

  • That is, "minute" is a unit of time here? – Sinusx Sep 1 '14 at 21:38
  • @Sinusx Exactly. – StoneyB Sep 1 '14 at 21:40
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    One million minutes is almost two years. The clue that 'minutes' means time and not angle is 'very often', which is a 'time' kind of word. – Sydney Sep 1 '14 at 22:43
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It could be better worded, but minutes here is referring to the unit of time and not angles.

The rocks also don't slide around very often - scientists estimate they are moving for only a few minutes a year - which is why the event has not been noticed before.

Using a million seconds is strange, especially as it's almost 2 years (1.9), which people can visualise much more easily.

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