Land of Hope and Technology February 2016 - Page 5

ISSUE 1 The best located time zone in the world That the world sets it clocks by a standard that uses a line of longitude that goes through east London is not the point. GMT just happens to be the best located time zone in the world. This has nothing to do with invention, and everything to do with geography, the position if you like of tectonic plates. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. Under the convention we use today, the day begins in Japan, and works its way west across Asia, Europe and then across the Atlantic. When it is 5.30 pm in Japan and the day is drawing to a close, it is just beginning in the UK. The working days overlap. As the sun moves west, the working day draws to an end, first in East Asia, then on to India, the Middle East, and then Europe. By the time the day draws to an end in the UK, the working day in California has begun. The UK can thank the Pacific for being so much bigger than the Atlantic, for the stroke of luck that is the peculiar advantage of the GMT time zone The timing, is down to convention. But the overlap in the day is to do with where the sun sits in the sky at any one time. For as long as the times in each of the world’s time zones correspond to the position of the sun, the UK’s day will always overlap with the day in both Japan and California, and moving westwards from Japan everywhere between. By contrast, in every other time zone in Europe and in Asia west of Japan, when the day begins locally, it will be ending somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, and will not have reached the west coast of the US This is one of the UK’s core strengths. In a world that is becoming ever more interconnected, this strength will if anything become even more important. From the UKs’ point of view, this advantage is down to pure luck. The UK can thank the Pacific for being so much bigger than the Atlantic, for this stroke of luck.