11 Mind Boggling Facts About Time
Tuesday - 30 July 2013
Time is an essential part of life. Twenty four hours in a day, sixty minutes in an hour. It's so simple you keep it on your wrist.
But when you start to look at how time really works, it starts to boggle your mind.
Here are 11 astonishing facts about time. All liability for bafflement incurred in reading further is your own.
1. The More Connected the World Gets, the More We Need to Know the Time
In the early 19th century, every town and village had its own time zone, with clocks synchronised to noon. This changed with the advent of the railways, which had their own time, "railway time" to avoid crashes and set timetables. Eventually, the railway industry forced a change, and America adopted standardised time zines in 1883. Britain didn't follow suit until 1940.
2. Time is Slowing Down
At least it is on earth, though you probably won't notice it. Tidal friction from the moon and sun are slowing down the earth's rotation. Because of this, the solar day is getting longer by an average 1.7 milliseconds every hundred years.
3. Leap Seconds Keep Things in Order
The rate that the earth's rotation slows down is irregular, because it can be influenced by weather patterns such as strong winds. Since 2005, there have been three "leap seconds" to counteract the effect of the earth slowing down. Conversely, between 1999 and 2005, there were no leap seconds.
Without leap seconds, over the next 140 million years one day would lengthen out to 25 hours.
4. British Summer Time Started in Britain (Almost)
Well, who'd have guessed it? But seriously, the idea of moving the clocks an hour forward in the summer (known as Daylight Saving Time in much of the world) started in Britain.
Horse lover William Willett proposed the change because of his anger at the "waste" of useful daylight hours in the wee hours of the morning during the summer.
Britain adopted Willett's proposal a year after he died in 1916. Germany had already adopted the proposal a few weeks earlier. The aim of both countries wasn't to help more people ride horses in the evenings, but to save fuel and money to put towards the war effort.
5. Where You're Born Influences How You See Time
In the Middle East, people see time as passing in fifteen minute intervals. This contrasts with North America, where time is seen as passing in five minute intervals.
So if someone is late in America if they arrive more than five minutes after an agreed time. In the Middle East, you have 15 minutes grace before you're considered late.
6. No One Likes to be Kept Waiting
If you have to leave someone waiting ten minutes, tell them you'll be 15. That's because when you overestimate how long something will take, time seems to go faster.
All of which goes to explain why theme parks tell you there's a three hour wait for the most popular ride, which actually turns out to be ninety minutes.
7. In China, Noon Can Be at 3pm
Noon is technically the time at which the sun reaches its highest point. This isn't the case in China, however. Despite spanning four time zones from east to west, the whole of China sets its clocks to the same time.
That means in some parts of the country the sun reaches its highest point at 11am, while in other parts this doesn't happen until 3pm.
What's more, some places in China don't experience sunrise until 10am.
8. Leap Years Were Created By the Romans
Julius Caesar developed the leap year in around 45 BCE. His choice of February as the month to be given an extra day wasn't coincidence. In the Roman calendar, February was the last month of the year, and the final days of February were set aside for feasting and celebration.
9. All Animals Live for the Same Length of Time
At least they would if time was measured in heart beats. When it comes to heartbeats, the expected lifespan of any animal is the same for all animals: 1.5 billion heart beats.
10. Everything You See Happened in the Past
You're probably familiar with the idea of light years. When you look into the night sky, you're seeing stars as they were several years ago, because the light from the stars takes years to reach earth.
Likewise, there is an eight minute time lag between when the sun emits light and when the light reaches earth. When you look at the moon, you see it as it was 1.2 seconds ago.
Even with what's going on around you, in what looks like right now, there's a time lag of around 80 milliseconds.
11. Human Beings Are a Recent Invention
It's easy to feel self-important and get caught up in the challenges of life until we recognise earth itself we are just a minuscule drop in the ocean of the universe.
Even more mind blowing is realising the tiny role humans have played in the earth's history. If the earth's existence was compressed into a single 24 hour day, humans would arrive on the scene at just 40 seconds before midnight.
Stopped Watch by JD Hancock.
Time by Alan Cleaver.
Times Square Fisheye by Randy Lemoine.
Ninja Portrait by Zach Dischner.
Leaving Yerevan by Thomas Leuthard.