Re: [LEAPSECS] Consensus rather than compromise

From: John.Cowan <>
Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2005 15:34:19 -0400

Rob Seaman scripsit:

> It does sound like we are being encouraged to replace the worldwide
> timezone system

*What* worldwide timezone system? The nations of the world have agreed
(more or less) on a common international reference time, GMT/UTC.
But each of the 220+ sovereign nations defines its own LCT(s) for its
own territory, as well as its own DST rules.

For example, in the United States, it is the U.S. Department of
Transportation (a federal agency) that decides which time zone a
particular locality is in, but it is state law (or in one case, tribal
law) that determines whether DST is observed there or not.

Not even the so-called "International Date Line" is actually the product
of international agreement: it's simply a line drawn to separate the
countries in GMT+x zones from the countries in GMT-x zones. In 1995,
the Date Line actually did move as Kiribati changed two of its three
timezones from UTC-11 and UTC-10 to UTC+13 and UTC+14.

Additionally, several parts of the world, notably Newfoundland in Canada,
the whole of India, and the central part of Australia, have half-hour
offsets from universal time. Liberia, indeed, was on UTC-0h44m30s until
1972; they are now on UTC+0.

The only place there is a genuinely worldwide timezone system is on the
high seas, where there is no national jurisdiction. Antarctica, which
is also outside national jurisdiction, ignores longitude altogether:
each base is on the timezone of the end of its supply line.

> In an extreme analysis, the "fix it all in the timezones and leap
> hours" proposal amounts to a return to nineteenth century practices
> of clock time diverging between one railroad station and the next.
> I don't believe that extreme would occur any more than you do,

Then why bring it up? Nobody wants to return to what Isaac Asimov
called "Podunk time for Podunk and Squeedunk time for Squeedunk".

> And if a standard were to be implemented that relies on the tweaking
> of local timezones to compensate for a drifting non-solar fundamental
> reference,

I think it inappropriate to refer to changes in offset of 30m or 1h as

> it is not remarkable to expect that mechanisms for avoiding the slapdash
> creation of ad hoc timezones and for allowing the appropriate tracking
> of historical timestamps would be considered in advance and perhaps
> be implemented under the force of law.

Whose law? National laws create ad hoc timezones only if the nation
desires them, and (as my previous posting mentioned) it generally
doesn't. Most of the world's countries have only one timezone and
are likely to stay that way, even if they wind up choosing a different,
but still single, timezone eventually.

> It isn't sufficient for any of us simply to claim that our own pet
> proposal has no negative ramifications and to leave it at that.

I don't. I simply think the negative ramifications are in scale with
the ones we already have and know how to manage, and since they affect
only LCT conversion, not elapsed time or time unit conversion, they are
much less problematic.

Possession is said to be nine points of the law,                John Cowan
but that's not saying how many points the law might have.
        --Thomas A. Cowan (law professor and my father
Received on Wed Aug 31 2005 - 12:35:20 PDT

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