Measuring time - Time Zones
“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” Charles Schultz
For a long time, most people kept time simply by taking note of the position of the sun. Hence, sundials were really man's first form of clock, allowing people to harness a resource that had, in actuality, always been available. Even as late as the 1800’s, people still looked to the sun to set their clocks noting that noontime occurred whenever the sun was directly overhead. This of course caused an infinite number of individualized notions as to what the exact time was. Eventually towns organized themselves to the point where neighboring towns had a unified time keeping system. Still, for many reasons, including political wrangling and irregularly shaped borders, discrepancies and subsequent squabbles continued to exist in many areas. Railroads were the main means of transportation in the United States at the time and they provided timely transport between cities. However, what travelers encountered were things like “twenty-seven different time zones in Michigan, thirty-eight in Wisconsin, twenty-seven in Illinois, and twenty-three in Indiana” (Burns). The fact that these states were so close to one another and had so many different mini-time zones between them, arriving or departing on time was a constant problem for commuters and travelers alike.
Something had to happen and Britain led the way in 1840 when one of its railway systems (Great Western Railway) agreed to accept London Time as the standard time throughout its route. The benefits of such standardization soon became apparent and in 1847, the industry standards body in England recommended that all railroads throughout the country adopt GMT: Greenwich Mean Time.
England is the location of the Prime Meridian and the Royal Observatory, from which all time zones around the world are currently measured. Built in 1675, the Observatory’s original purpose was to track longitudinal lines for the purpose of helping sailors navigate, framing the forerunner to the concept of time zones. With the guidance of Charles Dowd and William F. Allen, the United States adopted a system of four time zones on November 18th, 1883. This meant that individual communities would no longer set their own times. Instead, times throughout the country would be set along imaginary, geographical lines that run from north to south called longitudinal lines.
Nowadays, West European Time, also known as Universal Time, is the standard that all time zones around the world are compared to. Since it is the point of origin, all areas that don’t share this time zone are referred to as having plus or minus a certain number of hours in relation to it. Central European Time is “+1” hour, Moscow Time is “+3”, and Tokyo Time is “+9”. In the United States, there is the Atlantic Standard Time (“-4” hours), Eastern Standard Time (“-5” hours), Central Standard Time (“-6” hours), Mountain Standard Time (“-7” hours), and Pacific Standard Time (“-8” hours).
The following link will take you to a chart of the standard time zones of the world. http://www.cqham.ru/images/time_zones.gif
Separate time zones make sense because the sun cannot be overhead (high noon) at the same time everywhere around the world. At any given moment, times are different at different locations around the globe. Time zones help standardize the process of logging these time changes. In the end, however, time zones are a political policy, and therefore it is individual countries that handle their implementation. Thus there are many unique situations world wide when it comes down to how a time zone is implemented within a country. Here are a few facts about time zones that stick out.
1. Differing time zones meet at the intersection of Finland, Norway, and Russia, causing many towns that are very close to one another to have differing times.
2. China has the widest spanning time zone in the world. It is also the largest country that is under one time zone.
3. Australia has three time zones: Eastern, Central, and Western. Some of the districts within these time zones have begun to implement daylight savings time, while others have not which means that Australia’s time zones sometimes overlap.
The following link will take you to a chart of the differing time zones in Australia. http://www.search.com/reference/Time_in_Australia
4. Russia currently has the largest number of time zones, with a total of eleven, followed by the US and Canada, both with six. The following links will take you to a chart of the differing time zones in Russia, the United States, and Canada.
Russian Time Zones
United States Time Zones
Canadian Time Zones