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I’ll tell you my trouble with time-telling

We started off with letting celestial bodies, like the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, provide us with a reference point for measuring time.  20,000 years ago, we also witnessed ice age hunters scratch lines using sticks and bones to count the phases of the moon, while letting Sumerians, in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, divide the day into 12 periods and 30 parts (5000 years ago). Then we saw Stonehenge, Egyptian calendars and the use of constellations followed by the fancy sunclocks and water clocks. By the 10th century, we felt the need to carry our times, as evident with the emergence of pocket sundials and before we knew it, in the first half of the 14th century, large mechanical clocks presented themselves. The rest, my friends, is history. Sometime during this process, the need to express precise time occured. Seconds and minutes consequently found themselves into the 21st century.

The history is beautiful, but let me tell you my concern: whenever we allot time for a meeting, we feel obligated to consume the time “to the nearest hour”. For example, if I am meeting for lunch with someone, I will most likely schedule one hour (not sixty minutes, but one hour). In reality, I may actually only need 36 min. Actually, maybe only 2155 seconds. Provided this scenario, don’t you think that the hour-hand is stealing time away from us? It may similarly be saving time for us, but you see my point? My only suggestion is, get rid of the hour marks on the clock. That will leave us with 1440 minutes per Earth’s rotation. I know its harder to manage, but we humans seem to be able to train ourselves to do anything. Why not manage 1440 minutes more wisely? I think the concept begs a thought.


Some interesting facts about time:

The concept of standard time was adopted in the late 19th century in an attempt to end the confusion that was caused by each community’s use of its own solar time.  Some such standard became increasingly necessary with the development of rapid railway systems and the consequent confusion of schedules that used scores of different local times kept in separate communities. (Local time varies continuously with change in longitude.)

•It is said that the reason Greenwich is seen as an important point of reference is because of the existence of the Greenwich Observatory. A conference of astronomers in 1884 argued that this was an important landmark from which all calculations about time should be made. Interestingly enough, Greenwich remains the prime meridian even though the original observatory has moved elsewhere.

•Even though most of the world’s time zones differ by increments of an hour, there are many places around the world that use so-called ‘offset’ time zones. This means that the time zones differ from the standard time zone of that place by half an hour or even fifteen minutes. Examples of such countries are India (UTC+5.30) and Nepal (UTC+0545).

•In terms of which country has the largest number of time zones, Russia comes out as having the most. It has eleven, including Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. China is also interesting as the largest country with only one time zone (UTC+8).

•If we adopted the standard technique of time zones at the poles, this would be very problematic. Since longitude lines narrow at the poles, each segment would become very narrow and very small areas would differ in time. Therefore, people who live or work at the North and South Poles simply use UTC time.


About Amena Khan

Thinker | Minimalist | Writer | MBA | Fearless | Always 110% | Global Citizen | Limited Edition | The proof of the pudding is in the eating


One thought on “I’ll tell you my trouble with time-telling

  1. Another perspective changing observation!

    I remember reading an essay describing how the appearance of clocks (I think in church towers) cemented the system we currently adhere to. We do need to rethink time, or at least have a different representation to shake things up, heh.

    The linearity of time is a bit scary though: every tick of the clock is a second of our lives we will never get back..

    Posted by dehahs | May 14, 2011, 5:24 am

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Amena Khan

Thinker | Minimalist | Writer | Fearless | Always 110% | Global Citizen | Limited Edition |

Hope your encounter with me is an inspirational one.

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