On November 4 it’ll be time to turn our clocks again — Jet lag without the hassle of airplane security and cramped seats. I can hardly wait.
Those of you who have followed me for awhile know I have done bi-annual rants against changing our clocks (in either direction; it matters little) in the hope that we’ll do away with this bane upon school children, dairy farmers, and the rest of us folk who seek the simpler life. This year I’m taking a different tack.
eager anticipation of this year’s rant post, for the past few weeks (off and on) Woody and I have been experimenting with a new way of telling time. I’ll come back to that in a bit.
Currently, we all use Solar Time.
Think sundials and high noon.
And this universal use of solar time isn’t all that old, in the larger scheme of things.
Once upon a time every community had their own time. Think about it. Since noon is when the sun is highest in the sky, wherever you lived, the town five miles east or west would have noon a bit later or earlier. Thousands of time zones existed up until 1883 when the railroads got organized and the US
discovered adapted to four zones within us.
Time Zones are based on dividing the globe into 25 vertical parallel lines running from pole to pole and all starting at Greenwich, London, England. Hence the term: Greenwich Mean Time.
Logical enough except that the various independent towns, states, and countries had the ability to adapt to local needs. The result: today there are 39 time zones circling the globe.
Russia, the geographically largest country in the world, has 11 time zones (thought she only adheres to nine of them), while China, the fourth largest country, and India, the seventh, have one (each).
Worse, not every country follows the one hour difference rule. North Korea set their clocks back by half an hour to distinguish them from neighboring China and Japan, and Nepal’s clock is 45 minutes different from the rest. Go figure.
Then there’s Samoa, which decided (for reasons that escape me now, if ever) it wanted to be on the other side of the International Date Line (that invisible line that runs here and there through the Pacific Ocean). So, the nation of Samoa is now 24 hours ahead of American Samoa, less that 50 miles away.
If you are a world traveler, it’s a challenge. I flew into Almaty, Kazakhstan a few years ago only to discover that I’d given my colleague who was to meet me the wrong day I was arriving.
From Solar Time to Physical Time
Astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry, and economist Steve H. Hanke, both at Johns Hopkins, have been advocating a single coordinated universal time zone for a few years now. If time were based on physics, they say, it would be the same time around the world, making life much simpler if not more logical.
Seven a.m. here would be 7 a.m. there, no matter where either of us were. That’s not to say we’d all be waking up at 7 a.m., which brings us back to that experiment Woody and I have been into.
We’ve been living on “coordinated universal time” the past few weeks.
Given that I’ve still not mastered the meter system, (and Fahrenheit to Celsius? Forget it.) I needed to make this little adventure as simple as possible. So, we stayed with Greenwich Mean Time as our starting point. I merely had to add five hours to whatever my watch said. I’d get up at noon (the only noon), lunch at 5:30 (p.m.) dinner at 11:30 (p.m.) and crawl into bed around 3 a.m.
Except that Woody wanted to use the 24-hour (military) clock as our guide, an additional change I wasn’t wholly convinced of at first. But, c’est la vie.
Now instead of five hours consistently, I add seventeen (twelve hours plus five hours) to my watch, but only between noon and midnight. Of course we no longer have noon or midnight, but (again) c’est la vie. I still wake up at 1200, but now I have lunch at 1730, and dinner at 2300. I do wish I could just look at my watch.
Think about it.
We’re not alone in this. Airplane pilots have used Universal Time (they call it Zulu time) from the beginning of air travel. It’s how they make certain they are all on the same page time-wise. A very good thing, I’m thinking. And NOAA (weather) satellites, ham radio operators, and our military do too.
For those with a subscription, here’s the link to an interesting interview Drs. Henry and Hanke gave to the Washington Post a few years ago on the value of adopting Coordinated Universal Time (they call UTC; I have no idea why it can’t be CUT) worldwide.
Since we no longer need time zones to keep the trains running on time. (No; let’s not go there), why, actually, do we need time zones? Here’s my new mantra:
Down with time zones!
Without them, eventually, life will be simpler for all. And I prefer simpler, whenever it’s available. Want more information? Here’s the website EndofTimeZones.com for you to peruse. You’re welcome.
How about you? What advantages do you see to holding onto time zone?