division of time

The division of time is one the most screwed up interface of earth. As a high school student I always used to get confused in the conversions and till day curse the fact that
1year = 365 days, 12 months.
months can have anything from 28, 29, 30 to 31 days in it.
Most of us have schedule by the week ( Monday morning meetings, Friday night parties, Sunday schedule etc.) but neither the month nor the year is divided into a whole number of weeks.
Then 1day = 24 hours
but 1hour = 60 minutes and seconds so on…
However 1 second is divided into 1000 milliseconds, micro, nano and so on….

I think one of the major reasons why most people are scared of mathematics is because of the tedious conversions from one unit of time to another.
Why is this interface so confusing?
1) The natural divisions of time are:
1 day because of the rotation of the earth.
1 year = 365 days because the revolution and the season cycle.
1 month = 29.5 days because a year is too long and lunar cycle is a easier to read clock.
Using these 3 references is inevitable if you want your time to have any reference. But this answers only half of my problem. Why a complicated division of 24 hours, 7 day week, 60 minutes, 1000 milliseconds?

2) The hours were introduced by Egyptians with a simple metric concept in mind.
A work day consisted of 10 equal hours. End of each hour, workers were allowed to take a break from their work in the scorching heat and drink some water or have some bread.
Simple isn’t it, unfortunately they did not think the concept thoroughly. There was an additional hour for dawn and dusk giving rise to 12 hour day time. Since the banks of Nile were close to equator, the duration of day and night was roughly the same. Hence 24 hour day came into existence. Hence rendering a simple metric concept into a complicated multiple of 24.

3) 1 hour had 60 minutes, 1minute 60 seconds because of the European influence. Counting things in multiple of 12, 60 or 180 was common at that time. And clock technology at that time might not be good enough to upgrade from 60 divisions to 100. (to make 100 notches on a gear wheel, one had to increase the dia and hence make the clock unnecessarily bulky) However with the advent of digital clocks we rectified this mistake by dividing a second into metric system again.

4) However by the time the digital technology (capable of measuring fractions of seconds) was developed, America was dominating. Hence decimal system was introduced. So in a way in whichever era you are, the standards followed by that country is adopted and later generations are incapable of changing it. There is a similar story about how a horse’s arse influenced the roman chariot size and hence the modern day railroad specifications.

This is what happens when you do not think your design throughly enough. You start with a simple metric concept, but end up with a complicated 24 hours….. or you have a mix and match of divisions of 60 and 100.

4 replies on “division of time”

Thanks for the comment on my blog.
Hmm, I never gave much thought about hours in a day. If only we did not follow old practices blindly, we would have had different office hours 🙂

There are several other marine electronics that are also required
for better communication and entertainment needs while you are on the sea.
Regardless of automation, I believe it’s still important to understand the
concept. Color, contrast, symmetry, shape, size, visibility, recognizable shapes,
uniqueness, with or without text, fonts, etc.

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