Once upon a Null Meridian
October 11, 2009
Ask any transmeridian worker such as an airline pilot, and you’ll hear how important meridians are for coordinating air travel and the like.
October 13th marks the 125th anniversary of the Greenwich Meridian that runs smack dab through the lens of London’s Observatory telescope in its Greenwich quarter. The world was then divided into 24 time zones in 60 minute increments. At the time, twenty-six countries reached a mutual agreement on the world’s y-axis. The equator, having always been the x-axis of the planet, now had a perpendicular companion. Nations such as Afghanistan still tend to use their own personalized understanding of time accounting. But nonetheless, the world’s commerce relies greatly on this agreement the folks in DC at the International Meridian Conference agreed upon that autumnal day in 1884. Oh sure, there were minor adjustments with a redefintion of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) called Universal Time, then again in 1972 with UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) based on atomic clocks that reset in case you goof up the settings. You can get them at any store these days. Much to our chagrin, our children tend to set them at odd hours. The other day the alarm went off at 5 am…
The history of time, along with our collective agreement about what time is, is an interesting one. Happy Birthday, GMT. We transmeridian travelers promise not to hold jetlag against you.