[tz] The case against time zones

Lester Caine lester at lsces.co.uk
Thu Aug 7 08:52:30 UTC 2014

On 07/08/14 00:39, Paul Eggert wrote:
> In Vox yesterday Matthew Yglesias argued that time zones ought to be
> abolished, writing "They were a good idea at the time, but in the modern
> world they cause more trouble than they are worth."  It's tempting to
> agree.  See:
> Yglesias M. The case against time zones: They're impractical & outdated.
> Vox 2014-08-05. http://www.vox.com/2014/8/5/5970767/case-against-time-zones

It seems to miss one fundamental fact ...
That is currently how we work anyway. Any decent computer system is
running everything on UTC and I've run the information systems that way
for 20+ years. Timezones ARE the local schedules and do vary according
to local dictates. They just provide a convenient way that those of us
who need to check a train time across Europe can have some idea to the
local time. If you scrap them then you need some means of managing a
central repository of data on the replacement anyway? It's just called
something else?

> Yglesias's underlying justification is essentially the same one that
> McCarthy and Klepczynski used in their proposal to discontinue leap
> seconds; see Steve Allen's summary of the resulting controversy in
> <http://www.ucolick.org/~sla/leapsecs/>.

Now that is a different matter altogether. Just because some idiot
decided that since time was based on seconds then we should count time
from some arbitrary point was the mistake here. I've said before that I
work with 'days' as the base unit and time is then fraction of a day. If
one day just happens to be a second longer I can observe or ignore that
fact :)

We only need the tz database because we are working with a fixed clock.
What that clock is locked to is nominally noon over Greenwich and
because the rotation of the earth around the sun is not a constant, it's
only an approximation anyway. That the approximation currently used only
drifts a second every so often is probably testament to the achievements
of the clock-makers of the past, and do we really know how today
accurate that will be in 1000 years time? Just as we have leap years for
dates, we need leap some-things for time and for the next 100 years
seconds are as good as anything? It's only now we have a stable time
source that we see the problem ... and that is perhaps because someone
got the duration of a second wrong? Add a few more cycles to a second as
they would have done 100 years ago by resetting the Greenwich clock :)

Lester Caine - G8HFL
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