Time for a change in the way we tell time

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In the appropriately named New York Times, James Gleick uses the switch from daylight to standard time to make a case for dropping time zones altogether, writing:

Most people would be happy to dispense with this oddity of timekeeping, first imposed in Germany 100 years ago. But we can do better. We need to deep-six not just daylight saving time, but the whole jerry-rigged scheme of time zones that has ruled the world’s clocks for the last century and a half.... Let us all — wherever and whenever — live on what the world’s timekeepers call Coordinated Universal Time, or U.T.C. (though “earth time” might be less presumptuous). When it’s noon in Greenwich, Britain, let it be 12 everywhere.

Writing in MNN on the day of the time change last year, I made the same case, but noted that there are alternatives to UTC. I also noted that we have to change the way we do dates as well:

It's time we fixed the way we tell time

Russian watch© I want this Russian submariner's 24-hour watch. (Photo: Russianwatches) As we switch out of daylight saving time, let's admit it — the way we keep times and dates is a ridiculous mess. Last week I missed a phone call to Belgium because the guy on the other end got the zones wrong. A few years back, I ruined a family vacation because I booked a 2 March start as Canadians do, 2/3/2013, where the hotel booked it as Feb. 3 as Americans do, 2/3/2013. In two weeks, I am on a ridiculous 6 a.m. flight because I got the a.m. and p.m. wrong when I bought my ticket.

sandford flemingSandford Fleming tells the time. (Photo: Canada Archives)/Public Domain

Coincidentally, in 1876, Canadian engineer Sandford Fleming missed a train because he arrived at 6 p.m. for a 6 a.m. departure. He then proposed Cosmic Time, a 24-hour clock for the entire world — one time for everyone, irrespective of meridian. When that idea got rejected, he developed the idea of Universal Standard Time with 24 time zones, and he became known as the Father of Standard Time.

Almost a 150 years later, it seems that he was right the first time. Twenty-four hour clocks make a lot more sense than the North American use of a.m. and p.m., day/month/year makes more sense than month/day/year, (though year/month/day makes more sense than either) but what we really need is Sanford’s Cosmic Time, where everyone on the planet is following the same time.

In fact, in the 21st Century we need an entirely new way of looking at time, from the way we divide minutes and hours to the way we write our days, months and years.

swatch timeAnd the beat goes on with Swatch Time, (Photo: Screen capture, Swatch)/Screen capture

There have been many attempts at this over the years. Two recent ones are Swatch Time, where the watch company developed a time system that divided the day into 1,000 beats that were the same all over the world; I am writing this at 802 beats, the number since midnight at Biel, Switzerland, where Swatch is located. It’s 802 all over the world.

New earth timeNew Earth Time makes a lot of sense. /Screen capture

Then there's New Earth Time, developed by Mark Laugesen in Auckland, New Zealand, where the day is split into 360 degrees with 0 degrees being midnight at Greenwich, as with Universal time now. Each net degree is four minutes long, and divides into 60 net minutes and 60 net seconds. This makes some sense, as the 360 system is well known. So as I write this, it is now 283°58’ here and everywhere else in the world. Sadly, this idea didn’t go anywhere and the website is stuck in time.

But let's at least start somewhere...

revolutionary watchFondation de la Haute Horlogerie/ Republican pocketwach/Public Domain

The French Revolutionaries wanted to start with a clean decimal-based slate for everything, and were probably right in be getting rid of the seven-day weeks, cleaning up the different lengths of the months and starting the year at the fall equinox instead of the totally arbitrary January 1, but that's probably too much to handle all at once, particularly in a country that can't even let go of the foot and the pound. And since Americans won’t accept doing something so French as day/month/year, let’s dump both and go with the most logical year/month/day. And while I like the idea of Swatch time, even they have given up on it and no longer sell a watch that shows it.

Perhaps we should all just settle on Universal Time (formerly Greenwich Mean Time) on a 24-hour clock, with an add-on at the end to help adjust to local time and zone/ So right now for me it is 2016.11.06.14:00/9AE.

If we did that, I would never get the hotel dates or meeting times wrong. I would not be getting up at 4 — sorry, 08:00/4AE — to catch a flight.

That seems so much simpler, doesn’t it?

Also see TreeHugger, where we try and make the case that in the internet age, the 21st century, we should not be tied to a system developed for the convenience of the railroads in the 19th century:

It's time to get rid of time zones and go local

last spikeThe Last Spike/Public Domain

Let's look at today in two cities in the eastern time zone, which is by no means the world's widest. In Boston, the sun will set at 5:45 PM. In Detroit, most of the way across the time zone, it will set at 6:33. In Europe, Spain and Germany are in the same time zone. All of China is one time zone, leading to huge differences.

In fact, noon should be noon wherever you are, not at 11:34 in Boston today and 12:42 in Detroit. What works for the convenience of Sandford Fleming and the railroads (and later, Walter Cronkite and the TV networks) doesn't work for our bodies. More in TreeHugger

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