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Old 04-07-2011
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So, imagine you and the guy across the street from you both operate on your own local solar time. Let's say he's due west of you. The sun will pass directly overhead slightly later for him than it does for you, like 0.0001 seconds or something. If you arrange to, I dunno, skeet-shooting together at 3pm, will that affect your plans? Obviously not. Your watches are basically the same.

For most of human history this was fine, since people rarely had interactions with one another at great distances. When they did, it took so long for the communication to happen that you didn't really care what time of day was being discussed.

With industrialization, that changed a little bit. Within a day you could be hundreds of miles away. In a sense, your neighborhood got a bit bigger. You care more about what people 15° west of you are doing, and when they're doing it, than you used to. But for such people, the sun passes overhead 30 minutes later than it does for you. So if you arrange skeet-shooting at 3pm, by the time they show up for it, all the skeets will have been shot.

Putting people into time zones means that even though we might be hundreds of miles apart, our watches say the same thing. So most people in my now-larger neighborhood are operating on the same time as many, so I'm much less likely to have a time-disagreement issue with somebody in my neighborhood.

Unfortunately, if I leave near the edge of a time zone, my neighbors might have clocks set an hour ahead of behind mine, which makes it challenging to arrange get-togethers. So it stands to reason that we might adjust time zones so that their boundaries stay away from populated areas. Note that prior to time zones, this was never an issue.

I'm not sure that time zone boundaries are so adjusted, but it would make sense to do so. I know that the International Date Line zigs and zags for this reason. Who can fathom what went on in the collective mind of the secret committee that set up the modern time zone boundaries?
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