The Sun Never Actually Sets

World Timezones on a map
Goran tek-en -


Imagine a world without time zones - a business call set at 6 PM could mean lunchtime for one participant, deep sleep for another, and a dash towards dinner for yet another. The incidence without time zones is no less than chaos. Time zones bring order and predictability to our lives serving as temporal guideposts. They organize the world's clocks, bringing billions of people into roughly the same temporal frame.

Time zones represent the geographical distribution of time across the planet and underpin the functioning of everything from international business meetings to travel planning. As the world spins on its axis, the Sun rises and sets at different times across the globe, necessitating this segmentation of time. Just as maps help us navigate physical space, time zones help us navigate temporal space.

In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of time zones, delve into their history, understand how they're determined, and discuss their impact in our daily lives. Whether you're a frequent traveler, work with an international team, or are simply curious, we hope that this guide gives you valuable insights about the complex world of time zones. So, let's embark on this chrono-geographical journey!

History of Time Zones

The concept of time zones dates back to the 19th Century and the era of trans-continental railway travel. Prior to this, local mean time was in place, with each location setting its clock according to the sun's position. This method resulted in a confusing multitude of local times — and became particularly troublesome with the advent of railway systems, causing scheduling nightmares for the trains crisscrossing regions and countries.

To counter this, Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian railroad engineer and inventor, proposed a worldwide system of time zones in the late 1800s. After advocating for his idea at multiple international conferences, the concept was globally accepted. The Greenwich Meridian (Prime Meridian) in London, UK, was chosen as the base line to section the world into 24 equal hourly time zones.

The Prime Meridian marks the longitude at which the time is defined to be Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+0). As you move East from it, every 15 degrees of longitude represents a one-hour shift ahead of GMT, and similarly, every move West signifies a one-hour shift behind.

This development wasn't, however, universally adopted immediately. For instance, the United States continued to use its own system of time zones (Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern) based on its railway schedules until 1918. The Standard Time Act of this year officialized these time zones across the country and also introduced the concept of Daylight Saving Time.

Each country selected their preferred time zones. For example, China, despite physically straddling five time zones, officially has just one time zone, China Standard Time (GMT+8), underlining the fact that the political sometimes trumps the geographical and practical in the world of time zones.

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) itself has evolved into Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and is used as the global standard today, an atomic timescale, free from the fluctuations of Earth's rotation.

Conceptually simple yet practically complex, the establishment and evolution of time zones have drastically simplified global communication and planning, providing critical structure in a world reshaped by globalization and digital technology. As now, a 10 AM call in London can also be a 5 PM call in Tokyo, and everyone can plan accordingly.

Understanding Time Zones

Time zones might seem complex, but once you grasp the underlying principles, they become straightforward to understand. At a fundamental level, the world is divided into 24 time zones, largely based on the earth's rotation in relation to the sun.

As the Earth rotates on its axis, it completes a full revolution of 360 degrees in approximately 24 hours. Given this rotational speed, each hour of the day corresponds to a 15-degree slice of longitude — the distance between the North and South poles. Starting from the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude) to the east and west, we can segment the world into 24 time zones, each roughly spanning 15 degrees of longitude.

The Prime Meridian, located at Greenwich in London, UK, is the reference point for these time zones. Any place east of the Prime Meridian is ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+), whereas any place west of it is behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-). Theoretically, the time changes by one hour every 15 degrees, so for a location 45 degrees east of the Prime Meridian, the time will be GMT+3.

At the opposite spectrum of the Prime Meridian is another crucial imaginary line - the International Date Line (IDL), approximately along the 180° meridian of longitude, opposite the Prime Meridian in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The IDL is the place where the date changes: Travel westwards across the line, and the calendar jumps forward a day; travel eastwards, and the calendar falls a day behind.

It's also important to note that the lines of time zones are not always straight and do not strictly follow the longitude lines. They sometimes zig-zag to accommodate national borders or to include an entire region or country into a single time zone to avoid confusion. These idiosyncrasies reflect the interplay between geographical necessitate, political decisions, and socio-economic factors in defining time zones.

Anomalies in Time Zones

While in theory, time zones neatly divide the world into 24 one-hour sections, in practice, they present a range of anomalies and exceptions. From daylight saving time to unusual time zones and the odd half-hour or quarter-hour deviation, let's dive into the world's timekeeping quirks.

Daylight Saving Time: Many countries adopt daylight saving time (DST) to make better use of daylight during the evenings of the longer days of the year. Typically seen as "spring forward" or "fall back," DST involves adjusting clocks one hour ahead of standard time in spring and reverting them back in autumn. DST allows people to enjoy more sunlight in summer evenings, but it can also cause complications, such as sleep disruption and potential confusion over international meeting times.

Unusual Time Zones: Some countries have opted for non-standard time zones due to historical, cultural, or economic reasons. For instance, India and Sri Lanka operate on Indian Standard Time (IST), which is UTC +5:30. The intention is mainly to maintain unity across these vast countries, despite the sun’s passage requiring more than one time zone.

Another example is China. Despite spanning five geographical time zones, the entire country operates on one time zone – China Standard Time (UTC+8). This decision, rooted in political unity and simplicity, means that parts of western China see sunrise at around 10:00 AM!

Odd Half or Quarter Hour Deviations: Few places around the world deviate from the standard hour or half-hour time zones. Newfoundland, a province in eastern Canada, is a notable example of this. The province operates on Newfoundland Standard Time (NST), which is 3.5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-3:30). Similarly, Nepal is one of the few places worldwide with a quarter-hour deviation, with Nepal Standard Time set at UTC+5:45.

These anomalies remind us that while time zones attempt to systematize a world that turns on its axis, practicality, political, and cultural factors can and do result in exceptions to the rule.

The Impact of Time Zones on Daily Life

Time zones play a crucial role in our daily lives, acting as an invisible cog in the machinery of global society. From traveling and business operations to the digital world, time zones impact our global society in ways we may not consciously realize.

Effects on Travel: One of the most overt impacts of time zones is experienced during travel. Flying across multiple time zones can result in jet lag — a temporary disorder causing fatigue and disorientation, as our bodies struggle to adjust to a new local time. Moreover, scheduling flights can be challenging too. When booking a flight, passengers need to remember the local time at their destination may be significantly different from their departure location — for example, depending on the direction and distance of travel, you could feasibly arrive before you have departed according to the time on your watch!

Role in Global Business and Communication: Time zones significantly impact global business, shaping everything from high-stakes international calls to everyday emails within multinational companies. Coordinating work across different time zones requires meticulous planning. A team distributed across London, New York, Dubai, and Singapore needs to find common working hours that respect each member's local time and work conditions. On the flip side, this time zone spread could mean that businesses can operate 24/7, with different teams taking over as their work hours begin.

Significance in Digital and Tech Industry: In the tech industry, time zones affect everything from software development to user experience. Server times, for instance, need to adhere to time zones to accurately timestamp data and transactions. Moreover, time zones even influence software design; there's the need to handle multiple time zones in applications that will be used globally, especially in calendar apps, reservation systems, or any platform needing to demonstrate time accurately to an international user base.

In our interconnected, digital world, time zones are more important than ever. As we increasingly communicate and do business globally, understanding and navigating time zones effectively can aid smoother interactions, increase productivity, and facilitate global connections.

Navigating Time Zones

Dealing with time zones can sometimes be challenging. Still, fortunately, several strategies and tools can help ease the cognitive load of juggling multiple time zones, whether you travel frequently or work within distributed international teams.

Dealing with Jet Lag: Understanding and effectively managing jet lag is an essential part of adjusting to a new time zone quickly. Strategies like gradually adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before departure, staying hydrated during the flight, and getting plenty of sunlight upon arrival can help your body reset its internal clock and align with the new time zone.

Coordinating with International Teams: When working with teams spread across different time zones, coordinating efficient meeting times can be critical. Start by finding overlapping work hours that are convenient for everyone. Be respectful of colleagues' local times, and try to alternate meeting times if some team members consistently need to attend outside of their normal work hours. Tools like "World Time Buddy" or Google Calendar's "Suggested Times" feature can help find the optimal time slot for everyone.

Digital Tools and Apps: Various digital tools and apps are available to track and handle multiple time zones. World Clock, for example, is a helpful feature on most smartphones, and enables you to add cities or countries and view their local time. For more specialized use-cases, there are dozens of web and mobile apps, such as "Every Time Zone," "Time Zone Converter by," or "Figure It Out" Chrome extension which shows multiple time zones in new browser tabs.

Remembering to consider time zones in our dealings can be a sign of mindfulness and professionalism. The tools available today makes decoding the world’s complexities just a little easier, and as we engage more than ever on a global scale, these insights can help keep our connections seamless and respectful.


Time zones, despite being invisible lines drawn on a map, have profound implications in our interconnected world. They provide a structure for our global society, underpinning everything from international business operations to travel, digital technology, and even our conception of time itself.

While they might seem complicated, understanding time zones is not just a matter of mathematical division but also appreciating the influence of history, geography, political decisions, and socio-economic factors. They remind us of our world's complexity and nuances, where many unique, diverse elements contribute to the seemingly simple question: "What time is it?"

Navigating time zones effectively, particularly when travelling or working with international teams, can facilitate smoother global communication and coordination. The digital age has brought forth tools and apps to keep track of time in various parts of the world, making it easier for us to stay synced with our global village.

In this light, websites like FindYourFivePM offer an innovative approach to not just time tracking, but also promoting work-life balance and mental wellness. By pinpointing where in the world it's currently 5 PM - a universal symbol of 'end-of-work' for many - this platform encourages us to take the time to pause and recharge, no matter where we are or what time zone we are in.

Developed by Will Laws using state-of-the-art LLM-driven development, FindYourFivePM goes a step further in integrating the concept of time zones with lifestyle philosophy. It's a manifestation of how we can adapt time zones to serve our individual and collective well-being.

So whether it's planning an international call, avoiding jet lag or figuring out where it's currently 5 PM, understanding and harnessing time zones can enrich our daily lives and create a more interconnected and respectful global society. Time, as they say, waits for no one, but with a little help from time zones, we can navigate and synchronize our global clock.