The Clock Struck 15 Hours Ago
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Travelers found themselves resetting their watches by several minutes at every station to the east or west. This was inconvenient at best. Also in that century, the emergence of telegraphy created time-keeping issues for commercial and military entities — the early adopters. The telegraph, invented in by Pavel Schilling, was the first true "instant messaging" IM system. It allowed communication over great distances using electricity, which moves nearly at the speed of light.
And of course, to use either system effectively, it's helpful to know the clock times at both the sender's and receiver's locations.
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Before we explain how time zones solved these clock problems, let's do a quick review of latitude and longitude. Around B. It was a coordinate system for locating points on the surface of a sphere. The vertical axis measured "latitude," and the horizontal axis "longitude.
During the Age of Discovery, beginning in the 15th century, cartographers saw the need for standardized latitude and longitude measurement.
If your intent is to map or claim a geographic location, you need to describe its position unambiguously. Britain "ruled the waves" at the time, and took the early lead in this endeavor. Portugal and Spain, the other major seafaring nations, were using their own systems, but eventually deferred to England. Latitude was less an issue than longitude, since there was no dispute about where the poles latitude 90 degrees north and 90 degrees south and equator latitude 0 degrees were located. However, the selection of a starting point for longitude measurement the 0-degree meridian was arbitrary.
It was based more on national pride and convenience. In , England designated the Prime Meridian 0 degrees longitude as the meridian running through Greenwich Observatory. They were the dominant seafaring nation in that era, had colonies around the globe, were using state-of-the-art mechanical clocks, and were scientifically qualified to establish a standard. You've heard the saying "The sun never sets on the British Empire. England had colonies all around the globe, so it was always "daytime" somewhere in the British Empire.
Britain had clout. By the latter part of the 19th century, scientists, railroads and other emerging industries felt the need for a global standard of time. The first such system, using 24 standard time zones, was proposed by Sir Sandford Fleming in Sandford was a Scottish engineer, who helped design the Canadian railway network. His system wasn't officially sanctioned by any global entity, but by it spawned the adoption of the time zone system in use today.
Nation by nation, the world bought into Fleming's idea. Within each time zone, all clocks would be set to an average time that best represented where the sun was located in the sky. That time is called mean solar time. Sundials, by comparison, measure apparent solar time , sometimes called true solar time.
The time-zone process began in for the United States, when the nation was divided into four standard time zones. Each zone was centered on a meridian of longitude:. The United Kingdom had already started a similar process, and the rest of the world soon followed suit.
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By , the global system of time zones we use today was fairly well established. Increasing global connectivity demanded some universal system of time measurement, and standard time zones were the answer. Most time zones do not precisely follow meridians of longitude. They zig and zag as needed to keep islands, smaller countries and large metropolitan areas on the same clock time — an obvious concession to convenience. Standard time zones are 15 degrees wide, since degrees divided by 24 hours equals 15 degrees per hour.
They are numbered by hour starting from the Prime Meridian longitude 0degrees , which runs through Greenwich, England. The numbering system makes it easy to find the time in other zones. When atomic clocks were invented in the s, it became possible to measure time with an accuracy better than that provided by the rotating Earth. GMT was an "average time" system based on telescopic observations from Greenwich Observatory. Once in a while a "leap second" is added to or subtracted from the world's clock — that's a correction between GMT and UTC.
Earth's rotation period can vary from exactly 24 hours by a fraction of a second either way, depending on geologic perturbations. For example, as glaciers melt, there's a transfer of mass from higher latitudes toward the equator. As with a figure skater who slows his spin rate by extending an arm or leg, the law of conservation of angular momentum requires a reduction of the spin rate to compensate for this redistribution of mass. Scientists estimate a magnitude 9. Astronomers must also consider the difference between apparent and mean time.
That difference will depend on how far east or west one is located within a time zone, and also on the equation of time , which depends on the date. But again, to understand the IDL, we can ignore these complications. We all know the day and date change at midnight, regardless of your location on the planet. But to use a global time zone system with an IDL, the day and date have to be separated at two locations — you can't split a circle into two parts with a single "cut.
The IMC selected the degree meridian as the other "cut," not because it was directly opposite the Prime Meridian any meridian could have been that other "cut". The degree meridian was chosen because it runs mostly through open ocean in the central Pacific, zigging and zagging to keep nearby nations on their own day and date.
So the choice of degrees was arbitrary, but it established the IDL in use today. The bottom line is, this accommodation keeps the island nations of Oceania each on their own clock and calendar. But there are exceptions.
The Clock Struck 15 Hours Ago
Just before midnight on Dec. As the clock struck a. The decision was an economic one. Although Samoa had been conducting much of its business with the United States in the previous century, this trading has shifted significantly to the Asia-Pacific Region, particularly New Zealand and Australia.
So although Samoa was closer geographically to the Pacific countries, there was a very bothersome hour difference between Samoa and New Zealand and a hour difference between Samoa and Australia's east coast, according to EarthSky Communications. So in an effort to better synchronize their work weeks with their main trading partners, the two island countries countries decided to hop over the IDL.
In an article published on Dec. While it's Friday here, it's Saturday in New Zealand and when we're at church on Sunday, they're already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane. This IDL transition was something of a homecoming for Samoans. More than a century ago, the country was on the western side of the IDL but decided in to move over to the eastern side to be closer to U. So for years, Samoans witnessed the last sunset of the day and were the last to ring in the New Year — now they are one of the first.
Unfortunately, there will always be some inconvenience living so close to the IDL: Now there is a hour difference between Samoa — located on the western part of the Samoa island chain — and American Samoa on the eastern side. Fractional time zones are used in 16 locations around the globe. Countries simply choose what works best for them. In the video above, study that first paused frame before you hit "play.
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For the sake of labels, let's say the green wedge represents the first hour of Saturday. The blue part of the Earth is still on Friday. The red part which will appear later will be Sunday. That green wedge is the first time zone west of the IDL. West is clockwise as seen in this view from above the North Pole.
Of note, this green time zone:. The instant the IDL passes midnight, that entire time zone registers the start of a new day. All locations in a given time zone must be on the same clock time. There are some exceptions: nations and regions within nations that have opted out of DST, and those who have elected to use fractional time zones.
But we can ignore that for now. The model in this animation is idealized in many ways. I watched patiently for the doors of the Muslim chaplaincy office to open for my scheduled minute counselling session, my second one this month. I had visited the chaplaincy before and I was pretty sure Ustadh Amjad Tarsin — the Muslim Chaplain at the time — was tired of seeing me and dealing with my tantrums.
However, as soon as the clock struck 15 minutes past the hour, Amjad familiar face, graced with the same bright smile as always, popped out from behind the door and called for me to come in. I immediately felt safer than I had just minutes ago when I was standing alone with my thoughts. But, this year, the feeling of inadequacy was particularly inescapable. Circumstances in my personal life, coupled with the crippling pressure of surviving the academic year, were taking a toll on me like never before.
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It felt like there was no foreseeable light at the end of my tunnel and, for the first time in my life, I began questioning the value of my very existence. Gone were the days when my biggest worry was finding the right hijab to match my outfit for the day. I was rapidly losing touch with my friends, family, and, most importantly, my faith. I have been an active member, volunteer, and director for the past year and a half, but my relationship with the community had become strained as I have moved further away from a place of mental and spiritual stability.
I contacted the Muslim chaplaincy as a last-ditch effort to pull myself out of the emotional black hole that was my life. I scheduled my first ever counselling session with Amjad, who I had only met once or twice before at a few MSA events.
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