A New Look At Time

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. 

Here’s last year’s November 1 rant for anyone who missed it.

In 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. 

Thanks to Cyril Doussin for posting this to Flickr. 

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? 

24 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    A timely post . . . ha, ha!. Maybe I’m a fatalist, but I do’t see time changes fading into the fast because of the economic gain some groups perceive. You and Woody have tackled quite an experiment.

    Oe good thing where we live: mornings will be lighter … until they are not!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ha ha indeed. DST seems to be more prevalent the further north one goes. At least above the equator. I’ve long wondered what a 24-hr watch would look like. Enjoy those lighter mornings, Marian. You do realize they’d be just as sunny without the time change, yes? We are such creatures of the clock.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  2. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    I’m not a fan of changing our clocks to implement Daylight Savings Time. I see no need for it, but I do like the idea of time zones. I can understand the logic there, based on geography. But springing forward, falling back? Seems more like a conspiracy to make us all crazier.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Where I Was When I Wasn’t Here: San Antonio, TXMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      And it’s actually dangerous too. My nurse friend tells me ERs across the land gear up for this coming week when accidents and heart attacks rise. All crazy making indeed. Thanks
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  3. Merril D. Smith
    | Reply

    Good morning, Janet. It makes sense if everyone is doing it. As you say, you’d learn to say that you get up at 1200, etc. But I think I’d be confused doing it now because there are things scheduled for times using the current system.

    I hate the time changes, and I still haven’t figured out a way to explain it to the cats. 🙂
    Merril D. Smith recently posted…Lost and FoundMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks, Merril. Ah that is the clunker — getting everyone doing it. Wars circle the globe. We can’t get everyone to attack climate change in the same way. Trade wars emerging once again. I’m suddenly very curious about how these 25 time zones got implemented in the first place. What political body led? How long did it take? Something for next year.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  4. Joan
    | Reply

    I go with the sun and the changing of time twice a year makes me crazy. Whatever time of year, I wake with the sun and begin to fade when it goes down. Time zones? I haven’t thought about giving them up, but I imagine that it could be pretty confusing!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Joan. I was aware during this little experiment, how attached I was to keeping things the same. Maybe because I no longer travel the globe as I once did. Imagine going to work from 2 to 10. Dolly Parton’s song 9 to 5 would be one of the losers I guess.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  5. susan scott
    | Reply

    I can’t begin to imagine waking at 12 and waking at 3.00 a.m. The thought makes me ill! Maybe I’m just a creature of habit, We don’t have DST here in SA though it may not be a bad idea – we’d make more use of daylight time … getting to work a little earlier in the summer, a little later in the winter.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Well, of course you’d still be getting up at the same “time.” It does get us thinking of “time” in a more abstract way. No DST? I’m so envious.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  6. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I’m not even remotely close to a fan of the time changes and can hardly wait until the TIME comes when we do away with the change. Pick one (I’m not fussy) and stick with it.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Hope and UpliftmentMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Laurie. Yes, that’s certainly been my mantra since I’ve begun these “rants.” But coming across this movement to totally do away with time zones really intrigued me. Thanks for stopping.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  7. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    Interesting and timely post, Janet… 🙂 Sharing!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Bette. In the midst of so much turmoil here at home, this suggestion of rethinking the very way in which we measure time may not be so timely. Still, I found the proposal fascinating. Thanks for sharing.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  8. Clive
    | Reply

    But if we didn’t have different time zones the people who make the tv programmes about New Year fireworks displays around the world would go out of business! Time, like age, is only a number, though 😊

  9. Betty Sue
    | Reply

    Thanks, but no thanks – I’m even less a fan of math than of twice yearly clock change. If I had to add 5 (or worse, 12) hours to my watch time I would constantly arrive at the wrong time!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh indeed. I imagine though, if this ever went through, our watches would change too. I certainly wished I could just look at my watch while Woody and I did our little experiment. Thanks for your vote here Betty Sue. It’s interesting to me the reasons we all have for our position. Stay safe this week. Time changes are dangerous. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  10. Woody
    | Reply

    There is a kind of problem with the universal time. That is that it will be more difficult to know what people are doing at any given time in other parts of the world. Say I want to call my friend in Denmark. It’s 3:00 PM here. And it’s also 3:00PM there. But are they awake? Maybe. Are they drinking beer? Probably. So should I call or not?

    Woody

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ha ha. And when would people go to work? What would become the UTC equivalent of 9-5? Hmmmm. But at least I didn’t get my dander up about changing the clocks back an hour.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

  11. Frank V. Moore
    | Reply

    Janet, as much as I dislike changing clocks (we’re really not changing time, ya know), when I was employed I absolutely hated getting home from work when it was dark. Didn’t mind going to work in the dark. I’m not sure I can explain “WHY?” So, I looked forward to Spring, longer days and DST. And although Fall is my favorite time of year, when I was employed Fall wasn’t as enjoyable as it is now since there was always this little nagging thought that early darkness would soon be descending.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Frank. Yes, I too get a kick out of folks who talk about having more daylight with DST. You know how I got more daylight? I moved from New Jersey where it got dark in November at 5:30 to Ohio, where it didn’t get dark in November until 6:30 or so. Of course now I live in Vermont!! And it’s November again. Glad you stopped in.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A New Look At TimeMy Profile

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