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Revision as of 00:11, 5 January 2014

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2 xkcd comics, and only 21 (1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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6/6 Time
You know how Einstein figured out that the speed of light was constant, and everything else had to change for consistency? My theory is like his, except not smart or good.
Title text: You know how Einstein figured out that the speed of light was constant, and everything else had to change for consistency? My theory is like his, except not smart or good.

The original image has a link to a previous comic 1061: EST which is explained here.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Please edit the explanation below and only mention here why it isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
File:edo clock.jpg
An image of a Japanese mechanical clock, here showing two different hour schema for Japanese summer and winter, from the Seiko museum's collection. (Base units in this system are twice as long as Western hours and are denoted by the larger moving symbols on the dial edge.)

Cueball here suggests a regional time system similar to that used in many societies prior to the invention of mechanical time keeping, such as Japan during the Edo period or the Roman Empire, where the day is separated into two parts based on night and day and then subdivided by hour, minute, and second to give season-variable lengths for each. However Cueball's suggestions (where time shifts based not just on longitude but also on latitude, and seconds are variable in length so that day and night are always 12 hours long) are downright absurd. The caption lays out the punchline: Randall, represented by Cueball, has very strong feelings and opinions on how standards of time should be measured, but as bad as he believes the official standards are he also recognizes that his own rules would not be popular with other people. After coming to recognize this he has made a hobby or game out of making the worst possible system of measuring time and sharing them with other people.

The caption, though vague, can also be assumed to relate to the gradual deviation of certain regions from the Coordinated Universal Time zones with "Daylight Savings Time" that is observed inconsistently and smaller regions opting for awkward fractional increments of deviation from Greenwich Mean Time.

The title text refers to Einstein's special theory of relativity which postulates that the speed of light is the same for all observers, regardless of the motion of the light source (or the observers). An observer at high speed measures the same speed of light as an observer with no motion, measured from the same light source. In classical physics the speed of the moving observer would be added up but in special relativity this isn't true, instead the time runs slower for the moving observer. And additional to this time dilation there is also a length contraction without which the geometry wouldn't work.

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Cueball and White Hat are walking.]
Cueball: Under my time system, the sun rises at 6 am and it sets at 6 pm, as it should.
Cueball: The length of the second is different each day and night, and the current time shifts with your latitude and longitude.
Cueball: Today is one of the two days each year when my clocks run at the same speed as everyone else's.
[Caption below the panel:]
Time standards are so unfixably messy and complicated that at this point my impulse is just to try to make them worse.

Trivia

  • In the title text, "Einstein" was originally "einstein".
  • This method is also named "temporal hour" [[1]]


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