The time zone is an area on earth, where everyone keeps an equal time (hours of the day). This construction is built because the sun can not stand up in heaven at all at the same time. That means that the afternoon is on one half of the earth and night on the other. However, because people found it confusing to drop at 12 o’clock in the middle of the night, time zones were designed. These ensure that the astronomical afternoon (the highlight of the sun in the sky) always falls more or less around 12 o’clock. In order to keep it a little, we jump by one hour at the same time, so that every village does not have to handle another kilometer one kilometer west or east of another village.
Time zones thus, a simple concept. But is that really true? Here are some facts about time zones that you probably did not know (or at least not all). And they make a seemingly simple concept somewhat complicated …
10. Greenwich Mean Time versus Coordinated Universal Time
photo: Alvesgaspar / wikicommons
GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) is the time zone in English Greenwich, where the Royal Observatory is located. The Longitude position (a gridline system running from pool to pool) from Greenwich is 0.0.0.Everything that is not on the same line (for example, Europe, Asia, the United States and so on) has a different longitude. The time in GMT runs from noon to noon.
The Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) runs from midnight to midnight. The UTC was set in 1925 because of its greater accuracy. This is because the planet Earth is a bit “wobbling”, which means that the sunshine of the afternoon does not always occur exactly at the same time. Therefore, the time has to be adjusted a little.
From 1972, UTC is the universal standard time, although almost everyone still has the GMT. Young learned old done, old habits can be tough.
9. Summer time
Summer time is when we set the clock in the spring for an hour (and back in autumn) so we have a better spread of daylight at the right hours of the day. Thanks to the summertime, it is darker in the morning, so we do not wake up in the middle of the night by the bright light (if the sun shines). In addition, we have longer light in the evening, something that many people appreciate. More time for the barbecue and drink afterwards!
In Dutch we call the time between autumn and spring ‘wintertime’ but basically this time is just the standard time. In the summer we walk for an hour together with about 70 other countries. But not everyone. There are countries, mainly around the equator, which do not do summer and winter time.After all, it does not matter if summer or winter is around the equator, the sun is almost the same through the sky throughout the year. And on the Lord Howe Island in Australia, the clock changes only 30 minutes.
8. Time limits
Previously we used to discuss the longitude lines. Walking from pool to pool, and time zones are basically parallel to these longitude lines. Basically … But not everywhere. Indeed, it is very awkward in one country to use multiple time zones. Hence most countries use one time zone within the borders of the country. For small countries in Europe this is not a problem, for example, think of the Netherlands and Belgium. For practical reasons, almost all of the EU has the same time zone. But when countries are bigger, such as India or China, it may be confusing if you eventually have to cross the border. China, for example, uses GMT + 8. India, however, uses GMT + 5.3, so if you cross the Chinese border to India, you experience a time difference of 2 and a half hours. Let’s say you’re usually on day board. That could mean in one country that you wake up at a respectable 7 o’clock in the morning, while in the other country only half past five o’clock!
7. Creative time zones
In principle, the time zones are equal to the longitude lines, or at least from north to south. However, many countries and regions do not want to meet this. For example, the Australian city of Adelaide decided not to run Sydney the correct hour, but only 30 minutes because of competitive positions. In addition, not everybody wants to participate in summer time, which means that there are not only vertical but also horizontal differences between regions. This does not make the whole time system clearer, of course.
6. Formerly …
Before we had the GMT (and later UTC) and modern technology, the time of the day was simply derived from the state of the sun. You could do this by going to the sun or the shadows that shed that sun on the earth (as does a sundial). When one was rich enough to possess a clock, it was often put on the basis of sunrise and demise. Not very universal so, you understand. However, this was not a problem because traveling by land went so slowly that you could always get used to a new time. However, with the rise of faster transport and direct communication (telephone, telegraph) problems arose.Suddenly, in Europe, it was not always possible to call family members in California around noon without calling them by accident! To understand and regulate this phenomenon, therefore, the standard time was designed.
5. The sun in its peak, that’s when it’s twelve o’clock …
Many people believe that one can see if it’s afternoon, by checking if the sun is at its peak. This is roughly correct, but not very accurate in some countries, because of the enormous areas that fall within one time zone. We called China before. Take the far east and the far west of China. This distance extends over 5 time zones, thus five different hours. In other words, the sun is at its highest point in the west of China around an hour or three, and around an hour or 11 in the East. This also involves problems for the working population in the extreme parts of the country.
4. When traveling to the East, the clock passes one hour ahead
In principle, yes, and in most cases, correct. But again there are exceptions here. Again, China is a perfect example, combined with Russia and Japan this time. China has one universal time zone, GMT +8. Russia has never wanted to do this (and that’s good too, because of its long straighteners). Japan has decided it will last for one hour or China. If you travel from China to Japan, and back, there is no problem. But if you come from Vladivostok, you will experience strange things. Vladivostok is located west of Japan, so in principle you should travel to Japan for an hour (or more). But instead you have to turn your clock back two o’clock! Confusing.
3. Astronomical times
As an astronaut you are expected to at least get your own time zone, simply because of your extraordinary position beyond the longitude lines. But that’s not true, as an astronaut, you’ll get the same times as every other Earthquake, UTC (GMT). Astronauts therefore just use the GMT, regardless of where they are floating at that moment.
2. Democratically obtained GMT
The GMT was voted by a vote at a conference in Washington in 1884. Twenty-five countries voted in this conference to adopt GMT as the standard world time, and ultimately, this decision won the 22 to 1 (two countries refused to vote). Some Dominican Republic voted against. The French and Brazilians were the abstinence. France simply introduced its own Paris time and used it, regardless of the rest of the world, until 1914. The Brazilians refused because they found that a time zone that neither England nor the United States would qualify as ‘zero’ would be fairer. However, at the time it was problematic, given the British empire had colonies around the world. Almost everywhere a longitude line crossed the British territory!
1. One time zone to rule them all?
Photo: The Stakhanovite Twins / Flickr
Is it not much more convenient to handle just one time zone? All that resetting and clock scheduling is just tiring and confusing, especially if you have to visit several countries within a short period of time!
The reason to divide the world into 24 time zones is because it allows us to guarantee more or less a consistent time experience anywhere. That is, on the planet earth, the sun rises in the mornings, goes down in the evenings and it’s also around noon at noon. This is fun for many people, because now they do not have to explain to colleagues on the other side of the world that they can not really work right now because it’s noon (and that means in the middle of the night) . With our time zone system it is always in the afternoon during the daytime. Well, so handy.
Unless of course you live in North Scandinavia, because in winter it’s dark all day long …
So far the time zones. Another small bonus: the smallest region with more than one time zone. This phenomenon is located on the small island of Markets Fyr, in the Baltic Sea. It is about 300 at 80 meters from extreme to extreme, and both Sweden and Finland have a half. For Sweden this means Swedish time (GMT +1), and for Finnish, Finnish time (GMT +2).
10 Facts About Time Zones