Every frequent traveller will most likely have experienced the joys of jet lag as a result of moving across different time zones but have you asked “Why the time is different everywhere in the world?”
The fact is there are a lot of forces beyond human control and they include the rotation of the Earth which makes different parts of the globe experience sunlight and darkness, day and night, at different times.
The simple way to see this is to think of what it would be like if, despite that, the time was the same everywhere in the world. 12:00 AM would be the middle of the night in some parts of the world… but in other parts, people would be eating dinner at midnight, just waking up, taking their lunch break.
Not only would the name “midnight” be a misnomer for most of the world, but that would mean that the date would change in broad daylight, right in the middle of people’s days. This is obviously messier than the occasional confusion that comes with time differences.
If you are one of those that thinks of time differences as confusing, imagine what international travel would be like without time zones.
From time immemorial, different towns would keep track of the time themselves, without any kind of standardization. Clocks were set so that noontime corresponded with the sun’s highest point in the sky, which varied greatly by location.
And for the most part, this system worked, since international travel was not a common thing as it is today.
However, as travel—namely by train—became more widespread in the mid- to late-1800s, people began to see the need for a more universal system of timekeeping.
One of these people was a scientist and engineer named Sir Sandford Fleming. According to some historians, he missed a train while travelling, because he was confused about its departure time, and that inspired him.
In 1878, Fleming proposed that the 360 degrees of the globe be divided into 24 separate “zones” according to longitude. He suggested that adjacent zones be one hour apart.
Fleming’s idea caught on, and six years later, world leaders met in Washington, D.C. to establish the standard time zones we know today.
Of course, things are never that simple. A number of countries have their own variations on the standard time zones. Though China geographically spans five longitudinal time zones, the time is the same throughout the entire nation.
Furthermore, several countries such as Nepal and Australia use half-hour and even 45-minute time zones. And then there is also Antarctica, who has a very complicated and confusing time zone.