Back to School – More interesting facts about time

The concept must be taught to kids

How lucky for children, they must live in an ever present now with none of their past yet to come back to them, or their future anxieties to bother them. That may also be why they are so unruly and have no capability for adult life, but hey ho, so it goes.

It has its own science dedicated to it

Known as horology, the study and measurement of time, horology has seen great advances in the measurement and development of time and timekeeping devices, just see our previous article (link here)

Time is divided into units

Starting with the second, an International System of Units base unit, time is built up into minutes (60 seconds) and hours (60 minutes), everyone knows that. But I bet you didn’t know that a second is equivalent to 1/86400 of a solar day, or that actually this representation is slightly inaccurate as well, due to irregularities in the earth’s orbit around the sun.

In fact the best representation, and official International System of Units definition of a second is actually the time taken for 9,192,631,770 cycles of radiation to be produced by the transition between two levels of the cesium 133 atom, or alternatively the time required for an electromagnetic field to propagate 299792458 meters through a vacuum – mind boggling science!

Timekeeping was essential for sailing

By measuring the time difference between local time, measured by looking at the sun, and time at a fixed location of known longitude (east-west position on the globe) it became possible to calculate the exact longitude of one’s current position. This was essential to sailing as other methods for estimating longitude were inaccurate and caused significant problems, such as going off course, and delaying journeys. As such the problem of longitude was born, and eventually solved with the invention of highly accurate timepieces, known as chronometers, which were accurate at sea. These could measure the time, frequently calibrated to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), with a location and longitude of zero, so that accurate chartering could be made locally.

There is a Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

The UTC is the standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. This was a concept slowly introduced from the 19th century but finalised in the 20th century, where a need to co-ordinate time across nations grew. Prior to this it would be possible to list over 100 different time zones for a single nation, e.g. in the USA. UTC is within approximately 1 second of mean solar time at 0 degrees longitude, which includes Greenwich. This is why GMT and UTC are often used interchangeably.

Convention of time use is called Time Discipline

In sociology and anthropology ‘Time Discipline’ is the name given to social and economic rules, conventions, customs, and other expectations that generally govern the measurement of time, its use as a social currency, its awareness, and expectations regarding the observation of these customs by others. This is an area that has grown over the centuries with development and improvement of timepieces and their availability.


There we go, a few more time-based facts added to your repertoire of party anecdotes. Other guests are going to love you! Stay with us for more at Boutique Von Burg.