Time zones are a very recent innovation, despite the fact that the idea of dividing geographical regions by time is one we are all familiar with today. Time zones were established to make our lives easier, much like the more recent invention of the internet. When the world started to operate on a standardized time, it made international trade and travel less difficult. Time, however, is relative, as the adage goes, which is one of the things that makes the various time zones around the world so fascinating. Here are 5 things you should know about time zones.
1. Greenwich, London, Was the Logical Choice for the Prime Meridian
The borough of Greenwich in the English capital of London, England, is the epicenter of time. This is so because Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) has always been regarded as the standard time; the international space station even uses it. For practical considerations, Greenwich was selected as the location of the world’s time center in 1884. First of all, a meridian that passed through Greenwich served as the foundation for the United States’ national time zones a year prior. Second, the majority of sea charts used the Greenwich meridian as their principal point of reference since a large portion of global trade in the late 19th century was conducted via the sea. As a result, this particular meridian, which passed directly through Greenwich’s Royal Observatory and ran from the North to the South Poles, was designated as the world’s Prime Meridian. The Prime Meridian is the line upon which GMT was formed in order to set the benchmark for global time, and it is set to 0 degrees longitude. As an improved version of the international time standard and GMT counterpart, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) was introduced in 1967. By this time, GMT had been reduced to nothing more than a time zone, but it is still frequently used to refer to the global time.
2. The International Date Line Makes Time Travel Real
The International Meridian Conference, which was convened in Washington, D.C., in 1884, had the objective of selecting a longitudinal equal to the equator and establishing a global time standard. In order to split the Eastern and Western hemispheres similarly to how the equator divides the Northern and Southern, the Prime Meridian was established during the conference. The International Date Line, which was created simultaneously by the 26 countries represented at the meeting, is another invisible line (IDL). To distinguish between one calendar day and the next, the IDL was developed. The IDL, which travels around the world in a zigzag pattern and is aligned to a 180-degree longitude meridian, starts at both poles. It’s interesting to note that countries are allowed to select the dates they observe because the IDL has no legal standing. As an illustration, in 2011 Samoa chose to alter its time zone by hopping across the International Date Line and losing a whole day of the calendar, effectively time-traveling. The adjustment was made in an effort to strengthen Samoa’s trading ties with Australia and New Zealand, two nations with whom it regularly does business.
3. Time Zones Were Invented for the Railroad
People used sundials to tell the time before mechanical clocks were created. When the sun was directly overhead and at its highest position in the sky, it was said to be “noon.” As a result, even after the invention of mechanical watches, every town and city had its own interpretation of time. However, the absence of regular time started to cause issues with the development of the transcontinental railroad. Watches had to be reset periodically to account for the various times at each station as people left one city and went by railroad across the nation. The United States took Sir Sandford Fleming’s concept of time zones as a solution to this problem. Fleming, a Canadian railroad engineer, was the one who first proposed the concept of splitting the world into 24 longitudinal time zones, each with an hourly variance. This concept was implemented nationwide by the United States, which established four distinct zones depending on longitude. Following this example a year later, the rest of the world finally did as well, including England, Scotland, and Wales.
4. One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The number of time zones is uneven no matter how big a country is geographically. While smaller countries have numerous time zones, some of the larger countries in the world only have one. For instance, despite the fact that India’s width is almost equal to the distance between Utah and New York, the entire nation shares the GMT+5:30 time zone. Zhongyuan, Longshu, Tibet, Kunlun, and Changbai were the initial five time zones established in China in 1912. But in 1949, Beijing’s GMT+8 became the default time for all five of these time zones. As a result, in order to maintain alignment with Beijing, several Chinese cities adhere to alternate working patterns. In contrast, France, a geographically smaller nation, has a total of 12 time zones due to its 11 overseas territories. Additionally, Märket, a little island in the Baltic Sea, has two different time zones because Sweden and Finland both govern one side of it.
5. Standard Time Isn’t Always On the Hour
Strangely enough, some nations choose to use half-hours or quarter-hours to indicate universal time instead of keeping their time on the hour. For instance, both India and its neighbor Sri Lanka are set to GMT+5:30. Iran, Afghanistan, and Burma are other nations that are also on the half-hour at GMT+3:30, GMT+4:30, and GMT+6:30, respectively. Nepal, whose universal time is GMT+5:45, is an oddity in that it operates on the quarter-hour. Even worse, only a few of Australia’s five time zones are set to the half-hour or quarter-hour on the clock. There is no single explanation for why the times are how they are; rather, it frequently reflects the politics of each country. One compromise that took into account New Delhi’s placement between two meridian lines was India’s choice to set time on the half-hour. Setting the time to the median hour was a concession that didn’t favor either longitude and ostensibly served to make up for the reality that the vast nation only had one time zone.
Ref : Google, Wikipedia
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