The picture is divided in 24 segments representing the 24 hours of the day. The break between segments is not visible at noon or midnight because of the words, but presumably exists.
The picture rotates by 3.75 degrees every 15 minutes, as does the Earth, so that it is constantly up to date in showing which regions are currently at which times of day. The picture change seems to happen half-way through a 15-minute time increment (that is, at 7½, 22½, 37½, and 52½ minutes after each hour), so that the picture is always correct for the nearest multiple of 15 minutes.
The map projection of the earth in the middle of the picture shows an azimuthal equidistant projection with the South Pole in the center. This is unusual, as the projection typically puts the north pole in the center, but necessary in order for it to rotate clockwise. Randall was playing on projections before in 977: Map Projections.
The list of cities and countries doesn't match the map exactly - notice how the continent of Australia is shifted counterclockwise of the words "most Australian cities". This is because the map is centered relative to the time zones and the local variations therein. The map shows the configuration of time zones with respect to daylight saving time (also known as summer time) at the time of the comic's initial release (February 2014); it was being observed in parts of Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and other countries not named in this comic. If the map were to stay accurate through the year, the location of place names would have to move over the next few months as parts of the southern hemisphere went off DST and parts of the northern hemisphere went onto it; however, the map failed to change on the morning of March 9 as it should have (to recognize the start of DST in North America).
In many countries "business hours" are considered to be from 9 am to 5 pm. With some exceptions, including emergencies, it is generally considered rude to place a telephone call to someone's residence during the hours when most people are asleep; Randall portrays this time period as extending from 10 pm to 8 am. This may be a reference to the 10 pm "cutoff" time discussed in an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
On midnight at UTC we can see this situation:
- 00:00 UTC Greenwich Mean Time
- UK, Portugal
- West Africa
- 01:00 UTC Central European Time
- Most of central Europe
- Nigeria, and many more countries belonging to the West Africa Time zone
- 02:00 UTC Eastern European Time
- Eastern Europe, many countries like Bulgaria, Romania or Greece
- The Levant
- 03:00 UTC UTC+03:00 (East Africa Time, Eastern Europe Forward Time, and Arabia Standard Time)
- Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, and more
- Kaliningrad and Belarus
- Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and more.
- Iran is at Iran Standard Time, using an offset of UTC+03:30
- 04:00 UTC UTC+04:00
- 05:00 UTC UTC+05:00
- 06:00 UTC UTC+06:00
- 07:00 UTC UTC+07:00
- South-east Asia like Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and more
- Christmas Island belonging to Australia
- Russia is also using the Omsk Time
- 08:00 UTC UTC+08:00
- Western Australia
- China uses only one time zone while the country spans about five.
- 09:00 UTC UTC+09:00
- The Koreas
- 10:00 UTC UTC+10:00
- Brisbane and the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria
- US: Guam and Northern Mariana Islands
- 11:00 UTC UTC+11:00
- Micronesia, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu
- Russia Vladivostok Time
- Kamchatka (a Russian peninsula at the east Siberia), Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu and more
- New Zealand, Kiribati, Tonga
- Hawaii, Samoa
- French Polynesia, Cook Islands, and more
- Line Islands, belonging to Kiribati
- 15:00 UTC UTC−09:00
- Alaska (some islands of Alaska is at -10:00 and a few city's are at -08:00)
- French Polynesia
- US West Coast
- Canada or (British Columbia and Yukon)
- Mexico (Baja California)
- US: Denver, and much more
- Canada: Alberta (Calgary, Edmonton), British Columbia, more
- Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua and more
- US: Chicago, Texas except of some most westernmost counties, and many more
- Eastern Canada like Ontario or Quebec
- US East Coast including New York and Florida.
- But also Cuba, Haiti, Panama and much more countries
- Canadian Maritimes: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. (Newfoundland uses UTC-03:30)
- Most of the Caribbean Islands.
- 21:00 UTC UTC−03:00
- Coastal Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, French Guiana, the UK Falkland Islands, and more
- 22:00 UTC UTC−02:00
- UK: South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- Brazil: Fernando de Noronha
- 23:00 UTC UTC−01:00
- Cape Verde
- Azores (part of Portugal)
 Technical notes
When first posted, the picture was exactly 12 hours off. Somewhere around 5:10 UTC, this was fixed. The original version also included a listing for Inland Brazil; this could have created a conflict with US East Coast when Daylight-Saving Time begins in the US, and it has been removed.
The names used for the image files refer not to UTC (Universal Time) as one might expect but rather to the time exactly 12 hours off of that. The name of the image file linked from the page matched Universal Time during the first few hours, but the file-naming scheme did not change when the comic was corrected.
- [The comic is a moving circle with a static outer ring.]
- [The outermost part of the static ring is divided in 22 segments representing the 24 hours of the day. The Noon (11 AM - 1 PM) and Midnight (11 PM - 1 AM) segments cover two hours which are not segmented. The ring is divided so it is yellow from 6 AM to 6 PM and dark grey on the other half.]
- Noon - 6 PM - Midnight - 6 AM
- [The innermost part of the static ring is light grey and divided in two sections that cower from 9 AM to 5 PM and from 10 PM to 8 AM respectively. They contain descriptions of the time intervals.]
- Business hours (9-5)
- Rude to call
- [The rest of the image consist of a rotating part.]
- [On the innermost part of the circle is the Earth as seen from the south pole. Each continent has a different color. The colors are
- Europe: Red
- Africa: Cyan
- Asia: Green
- Oceania: Purple
- North America: Blue-violet
- South America: Olive green
- Antarctica (The south pole): Light grey
- [Two segmented rings circle the map - these give the names of the continents (not the Antactica) and the color of the ring match the color of the continent on the map. Each segment cover the part of the map with the given continent. The one with Europe is merged with the one for Asia - and the color also merges from red to green along Turkey and Russia where the transition from Europe to Asia occurs.]
- [On the inner ring are the names of the following continents (white text on a segment with the color of the continent)]
- South America
- [On the second of these rings are the names of the following continents (white text on a segment with the color of the continent)]
- Europe Asia
- North America
- [On the outermost ring of the moving circle are written names of regions, countries and cities of the Earth over the part of the map in which time zone they belong. All the text is color coded to match the color of the continent they belong to as given on the central map. The text is written in four lines. Below the names are sorted by color and reading from left to right first - and only sorting top to bottom if needed.]
- [Europe - Red text:]
- UK - Most of Europe - Eastern Europe
- [Africa - Cyan text:]
- West Africa - Nigeria - Egypt - East Africa
- [Asia - Green text:]
- The Levant - Iraq - Iran - Moscow - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India - Southeast Asia - Java - China - Singapore - Philippines - Japan - The Koreas - Kamchatka
- [Oceania - Purple text:]
- Perth - Brisbane - Most Australian cities - New Zealand
- [North America - Blue-violet text:]
- Alaska - US West Coast - Denver - Mexico - Chicago - Texas - Eastern Canada - US East coast - Canadian Maritimes
- [South America - Olive green text:]
- Coastal Brazil
There are currently several implementations of the Now comic available for several different platforms:
A script that automatically updates the wallpaper for the current time.
An Android widget version of the comic.
A web-based implementation which also displays time zones.
A draggable implementation (click&drag - left and right)
An offline version of the comic made using C++ and SFML.
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