Rethinking time: why the pandemic is the perfect reason to eliminate time zones

Weather & Traffic In-Depth

AUSTIN (KXAN) – From working at home, to the lack of travel, plus self isolation; there’s a decent chance the pandemic has changed our sense of time. Now there’s a chance the pandemic could impact time itself as it may be our chance to transition to a common way of calculating time called Coordinated Universal Time or UTC.

What is Coordinated Universal Time?

You probably think about time as a local thing, something that’s influenced by time zones, holidays and things like daylight saving time. For meteorologists, pilots and even astronauts, this way of thinking can cause problems, which is why they use UTC.

UTC, abbreviated as such as a compromise between French and English speakers, is a 24 hour clock. It has no AM or PM and is calculated by measuring the rotation of the Earth and combining that with the time-telling ability of hundreds of atomic clocks placed around the world. Atomic clocks tell time by measuring the movement of atoms, making these clocks the most accurate form of telling time.

With UTC, there is no local time. It’s like putting a clock in the center of the Earth.

How would a switch to UTC impact you?

Let’s say you work a traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and you live in Central Texas. Under UTC, you would work a 15:00 to 23:00. It sounds complicated, but there are some good reasons everyone should switch.

Since 2011, Johns Hopkins University professors Steve Hanke and Dick Henry have led the charge for getting everyone to make the switch. In an interview with the Washington Post, they said UTC takes advantage of the global economy, simplifies things for travelers and might be better for your sleep schedule. No more waking up at a traditional 6 a.m. We would wake up when the sun comes up, which has been shown to be healthier for you.

How would this look? China, which uses one time zone for its entire country, is the perfect example. Cities on the western edge of the nation use regional business times, as opposed to traditional business hours.

UTC can make working from home more efficient, which is why now might be the perfect time to switch. Imagine living in Hawaii, working in Austin and not having to do extra math to ensure you don’t miss a meeting. No more conversions for time zones or daylight saving time. Pretty nice, right?

In an interview with Wired, Hanke and Henry said the greatest challenge to the switch is local governments, but that the benefits UTC grants to major industries make it inevitable.

This wouldn’t be the first time Americans have switched to a new form of keeping time. Before the establishment of formal time zones in the late 1800’s, more than 30 different local time zones stretched across the country.

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