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**Keeping Time**

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(This column was
first published in the August 26, 2002 **Buffalo News**.)

*I Didn’t Know What Time It Was*.

That lovely old song is taking on new meaning because
the ways of representing time are getting out of hand.

Conservatism runs deep in our psyche. After the
nation made a good start, President Reagan got us to reject the metric system,
the measurement means used by virtually every other country in the world. And
an earlier president’s attempt to institute spelling reform was voted
down by congress, eliciting a famous one word editorial in the New York Times.
Its title: “Teddy Roosevelt’s Spelling Reform,” its single
word, “Thru.”

I think that both of those rejections were terrible,
but I am less enamored with contemporary proposals for reform of the way we
represent time.

Virtually everyone in the world today tells time in
the same way: 24 hours in a day, each hour with 60 minutes, each minute with 60
seconds. But, as the recent soccer matches in Japan and Korea reminded us,
local times differ around the world.

We employ a worldwide system of standard time
initiated at a Washington, D. C. international conference in 1884. The 360°
of longitude (those north-south map lines) around the earth are divided into 24
15° time zones, the first centered arbitrarily at Greenwich, England. As
the earth rotates, noon occurs an hour later in each time zone moving west from
Greenwich. To correct for this, clocks are set earlier. Here in Buffalo, for
example, our Eastern Standard Time Zone differs by five hours. That way, in
each zone around the world, noon occurs when the sun is at or near its highest
point. (In the mid-Pacific a date adjustment prevents us from turning back the
clock indefinitely simply by flying west.)

That is, it seems to me, a perfectly satisfactory
means of telling time not just locally but internationally as well. If you are
dealing with someone from a distant part of the world, you can both refer to
what is now called UTC, **
Coordinated Universal Time**, the current time in
Greenwich.

Enter the time modifiers. Not satisfied with UTC and
its associated time zones, they propose a variety of changes ranging from odd
to weird. Consider a few of them. I have included with each a web
link from which you may obtain further information and in some cases even
download clocks.

**New
Earth Time** (NET): Also centered at Greenwich,
midnight (UTC) there is 0° NET and the NET day is divided into 360°.
Thus noon at Greenwich is 180°. NET time remains the same around the world
-- no time zones, that is. Thus 0° for us here in Buffalo occurs at what we
now call 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Like our hours, NET degrees are
divided into 60 minutes and those minutes into 60 seconds. NET degrees are
equivalent to 4 minutes of our time, NET minutes to 4 seconds and NET seconds
to 1/15 second.

**Internet
Time**: This one centered at Biel, Switzerland
with the day divided into 1000 so-called “Swatch .beats”. Each beat
corresponds to 1 minute 26.4 seconds of our time. Biel is where the watchmaker
proposing this system is located -- what chutzpah.

**One World Time**
makes no clock adjustments but like Internet Time it changes the time
zones. In fact it allows for only one world-wide time fixed on what is now
the time in our Pacific Time Zone (the locus of the movers and shakers of
our entertainment and computer oriented world.)

**Decimal
Time**: The time zones remain as they are but
the day is divided into 10 hours, hours into 10 minutes and minutes into 10
seconds. A decimal hour is then equal to 2 hours and 24 minutes of our
current time; a decimal minute is equal to 14 minutes and 24 seconds; and
a decimal second to 1 minute and 26.4 seconds. Notice that a Decimal Time
second corresponds to an Internet Time beat.

Strangest of all is **Official Universal
Stimecode** (STIME), a kind of Roman Numeral time with no zeros.
Nines predominate: the day is divided into 9 hours, each hour into 9
minutes, each minute into 9 seconds. A STIME hour is equal
to 2 hours and 40 minutes of our hours; each minute to 17 minutes and 46
2/3 seconds; each second to 1 minute 58 and 14/27 seconds. There are 9
days in a week and 99 days in a month but in their odd way of counting
that is apparently 81 days. (Some of this is
conjectural as I found the website explanation difficult to
follow. (If anyone reading this has better luck,
please let me know and I will make corrections.

I’m happy with what we have now and suggest
that we stick with it. On the other hand these differing times lead to
some interesting arithmetic applications. For example, you might check out
my calculations. -- Gerry Rising