The Dating Game

I’ve been thinking about the whole Dating Game a bit recently.

No, not that dating game. I may be a shameless and utterly incorrigible flirt, as has been noted before. Usually by the wife to be honest. But it’s not like I can help being such a charming, debonaire and devilishly handsome young-ish man with such sparkling repartee, is it? And it’s all just good natured fun.

Besides which, it’s hardly my fault that I’m finding talking to you so damn interesting is it?

Um… where was I?

Oh yes, that was it. It wasn’t that dating game I was talking about. I’ve been thinking about this whole business with the international date line.

I mean, really, it’s just bollocks, isn’t it? (You see what I mean about sparkling repartee?)

If you travel eastward around the world, you move ahead in terms of time zones. For example (excluding summer times), if it is 11:50am noon on 1st January in the UK, it will be 12:50pm in Stockholm; it will be 7:50pm in China; and it will be ten to midnight in the Kamchatka Krai region of Russia.

And let’s stay with Kamchatka Krai for a moment; if it’s ten midnight in Kamchatka Krai, and by travelling east you gain time, what happens when you reach Alaska. Is it the next day?

No, because you cross the international date line. If you cross it travelling east (the same direction you gain time), you subtract a day; if you cross it going west, you add a day. This is because despite childhood fantasies about running really quickly round and round the North pole, it isn’t actually possible to travel backwards or forwards in actual physical time (or at least not at the speeds I can run). At best we can travel into a part of the world where it isn’t the same perceived time — which it is our convention to treat as being real time by pretending that this real time moves around the globe.

Hence we’ve got this enormous “fiddle factor” that is the international date line in order to prevent you from blowing our whole perceived time thing out of the water by going round the world really quickly loads of times and then being really disappointed to find out that you’d not gone back in time sufficiently to see the pyramids being built — and in fact that you’d not actually gone back in time at all.

And this ginourmous fiddle that is the date line poses another problem: of itself, it is not anything. It does not, of itself, posess an inherent time. It’s not permanently “midnight” — which sounds both logical (as the boundary between one day and another) and absurd (because you plainly can’t have a region where it’s always midnight).

However, despite it not being midnight, journeying from one side to the other adds or subtracts a day.

Imagine you start in the UK at 1pm on the 1st January. You spend six hours flying to Kamchatka — going East. That takes you to 7pm UTC, or 9am local time (past midnight and into January 2nd). Just across from you is Alaska. Over there it’s eleven am local time. Yet if you took an hour to travel from Kamchatka to Alaska, you wouldn’t arrive at noon on January the 2nd, you’d cross the international date line, subtract a day and in fact arrive at noon on January 1st — an hour before you’d set off from the UK in the first place.

The date would change from one day to another in the middle of the morning — or whatever time it was. Surely that’s absurd too: isn’t the date just supposed to change at midnight? But that’s because of the fiddle factor that is the International Date Line not having a specific time of its own and simply being an arbitrary construct where you add or subtract a day when you cross it.

You see what I mean? It’s just sheer lunacy, isn’t it?

I think I need to go and have a lie down… care to join me?

What do you mean, flirt?

5 Responses to “The Dating Game”

  1. mark fairlamb responds:

    it’s quarter to twelve

  2. mark fairlamb responds:

    or is it?

  3. mark fairlamb responds:

    i sent those last 2 messages, i just got a new computer yesterday and didn’t realise i’d have to register my details again.
    was it yesterday, or today………..or will it be tomorrow?

  4. JackP responds:

    –For anyone completely confused, I edited the name of the first two messages which were previously showing as ‘anonymous’ :-)

    If it’s any help, I think it’s today.

  5. Seb Crump responds:

    And it will be today tomorrow, too?

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