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What Time Is It ?


What time is it?


We have family and friends living around the world and it’s a job to keep track of what time it is in the various time zones they live in. When I know the time I can imagine them getting the children ready for school, going to work, at leisure or sleeping. When I send blessings and kind thoughts into the universe I hope they’ll be able to feel them. Sometimes you feel lonely and small in the big wide world and thinking about what they’re doing makes me feel part of their world.


Ireland uses Irish Standard Time (IST, UTC +1:00) in the summer months and Greenwich Mean Time (UTC + 00:00) in winter time. Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is maintained by a large number of very precise atomic clocks around the world. UTC is the successor to GMT and is used by scientists worldwide.


Planet earth is divided into about 24 time zones, some states, regions shift their time by one half-hour from the 24 hour divisions.


On May 1st, 2021, when it was 12:00 noon (IST, UTC + 1:00) in Ireland/UK

                                             it was 9:00 pm in Melbourne, Australia + 9 hours

                                                         7:00 pm in Perth                    ”          + 7    “

                                                         1:00 pm in Nantes, France               + 1    “

                                                         7:00 am in New York, USA               – 5    “

                                                         8:00 am in Boston          ”                   – 5    “

                                                         6:00 am in Chicago         ”                   – 6    “

                                                          7:00 pm in China                                +7    “


The USA has 9 time zones that anyone engaged in commerce must work with. People in Ireland now are experienced in conducting business in many time zones. France has 12 time zones, the most for any country due to its various territories around the world. China’s territory crosses 5 time zones but they keep to one time for the entire country.


In my astronomy class last week our Professor posed the question: why do we count time the way we do? Thank goodness he was prepared to answer the question himself.


Why are there: 12 months in a year

                              7 days in a week

                            24 hours in a day

                            60 minutes in an hour

                             60 seconds in a minute?


Julius Caesar’s astronomers explained the need for 12 months in a year because there are about 12 lunar cycles in a year and they needed to fit in with the seasons.


The use of 7 days in a week dates back to ancient Babylonian astronomers. They revered the number 7 and before telescopes were able to see 7 celestial bodies with their naked eyes: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. They divided the moon cycle into four 7-day periods and used leap days to stay in sync. This 7-day structure probably informed the creation story in the Book of Genesis.


The days of the week have been named and re-named by Romans, Norse and Greeks.


Calendars, Astronomy and Time Keeping: Since prehistoric times astronomy has been linked to time keeping and calendars. There are lunar calendars linked to tides, and solar calendars linked to the sun, both synchronised with the seasons.


Today’s Gregorian Calendar is linked to the sun and seasons and is used by most of the world since 1582, the time of Pope Gregory X111. He restored the vernal or spring equinox to March 21st.


Easter Sunday is the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox that occurs on 21st or 22nd March. So, the earliest date for Easter is 22nd March – but rare – last time was 1818, next time will be 2285. The latest time for Easter is 25th April – the next time will be 2038.


The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar. Named for Julius Caesar it was a reform of the Roman calendar which was designed with the aid of the Greeks.


While the Gregorian calendar is used for civil purposes in Muslim countries they use an Islamic Religious calendar where each month begins at the time of the new moon.


The Julian calendar is still used in parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and by the Berbers.


Our 24-hour day comes from the ancient Egyptians. They divided the day into 10 hours they measured with devices such as shadow clocks, added a twilight hour at the beginning and another at the end of daytime. They divided night time into 12 hours based on observations of the stars.


The division of an hour into 60 minutes, and a minute into 60 seconds comes from the Babylonians. They used a “counting in 60” system for mathematics and astronomy. This number system was used by ancients as early as 3500 BC.s


Ancient timekeeping devices included the hourglass, candle clock, water clock and sundial. Later inventions included mercury powered clocks, mechanical clocks, pendulum and main-spring clocks, spiral-hairspring watch, quartz and atomic clocks.


The circadian rhythm, our human body’s internal master clock in the brain (neurons – nerve cells) follows a 24-hour cycle. Our other biological clocks have their own rhythm or order of movement.   We can feel and hear our heartbeats. A resting heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute. When exercising, the heart may beat 130 to 150 times per minute. There is now a tendency to time everything we do, so, we consider 100 paces per minute to be a brisk walking pace.


In our perception of music our minds seek some organising principle, so, music compositions have a time signature that is a pattern of beats. Pop music mostly has 1-2-3-4 beats per measure, occasionally 1-2-3 beats that give it a waltz feel. Composers might play around with complex time signatures. People process what they hear differently and may naturally tap their fingers, toes, move their body or clap their hands to the rhythm. People may dance if that is the intention for the music.


In our fast-changing modern world time flies in units such as: a flick, a shake, a moment, a jiffy. Now scientists have measured the shortest unit of time, a fraction of a second, and called it a zeptosecond.


Time is always moving and it is one way we record events and their duration. I did some reading to make sure I understood what I was writing and that it was correct. I found that scientific research throughout history has changed our thinking about time,  but time is still a mystery. We order time as past and in-our-memory, as now or the present where we live, and the future we anticipate. The idea of time is caught up with the idea of self, identity, memory, flowing time, limited time and death.


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