2050: 6/6 Time

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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.


Cueball 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. This method is also named temporal hour, and still in use in the Jewish religion time table.

Midpoints in time such as noon and midnight vary on the longitude from east and west, while the length of day and night depends on the latitude. The first problem is solved today by using time zones in which at noon the sun is in most cases at or close to the zenith and sunrise/sunset happens at different times. The second issue is attributed to the tilt of Earth's axis and the curvature of its surface; in summer days are longer than nights and vice versa in winter. In the polar regions, there are very long days (and nights) and by Cueball's suggestion the entire months-long polar day would last only 12 of the newly defined "hours".

The caption lays out the punchline in which Randall has very strong feelings and opinions on how standards of time should be measured (his feelings on Daylight Savings Time have been well-documented in other comics), 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 it 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 (UTC) zones with "Daylight Saving Time" that is observed inconsistently and smaller regions opting for awkward fractional increments of deviation from Coordinated Universal 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. Additionally to this time dilation, there is also a length contraction, without which the geometry wouldn't work.

"Today is one of the two days each year when my clocks run at the same speed as everyone else's" refers to the autumnal and vernal equinoxes when day and night are the same lengths, therefore causing his clocks to match the world. The comic was released one day after that year's September equinox, which would be the autumnal equinox for Randall.


[Cueball and White Hat are walking to the right. Cueball has his hands up in an explaining position.]
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 frame:]
Time standards are so unfixably messy and complicated that at this point my impulse is just to try to make them worse.


  • In the title text the name Einstein was originally miscapitalized as "einstein".
  • This comic was released two days after the September equinox 2018 in the US
  • The topic of creating new standards making things worse was also topic in 927: Standards.

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This is actually how time worked in ancient Greece, minus the 6 o'clock part. Sunrise was at 12, sunset at 12 and the length of each hour varied depending on the part of the year 16:15, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

Not just Greece but most of medeaval Europe. The concept of a fixed length hour only arises with clockwork. that Noon, the ninth hour, now occurs at the sixth hour - that we call 12 - is mainly due to post black death labour shortages. -- Arachrah (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Also ancient Rome. I think Romans borrowed this system from Greeks and it later spread along with the Roman Empire's influence. 16:52, 24 September 2018 (UTC)
To be fair, the Romans "borrowed" (stole) a lot of other things from the Greeks, not the least of which was their pantheon. 18:21, 24 September 2018 (UTC)
Or rather, both descended from a common pantheon. (A few gods were re-borrowed wholesale, like Apollo, and I think a few were misidentified, but for the most part this is how it worked.) - CRGreathouse (talk) 16:57, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
Before clockwork (as mentioned above) was created, variable hours/minutes/seconds were necessary (at least during daylight hours) as the sundial obviously (citation needed) is just based off of the sun's angle in the sky.Raj-a-Kiit (talk) 17:42, 24 September 2018 (UTC)
Wait ... labor shortage? How would moving noon help with labor shortage? -- Hkmaly (talk) 03:41, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Some facts: September equinox was at 01:54 UTC on September 23 when in the entire US it still was September 22 as can be seen here: U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department (Apsides and Seasons 2018). This comic was released two days later. --Dgbrt (talk) 16:32, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

Could the timing of this comic be related to the EU voting to end DST within its borders? 16:51, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

This isn't about daylight saving time, which just moves clocks forwards and backwards by one hour in most cases. Cueball refers to an equinox when day and night are both 12 hours. --Dgbrt (talk) 17:05, 24 September 2018 (UTC)
This comic is about "unfixably messy and complicated" time standards (of which DST is one) at least as much as equinoxes (which aren't quite what you say they are; I won't get a 12-hour interval between sunrise and sunset at my latitude for another few days yet). 19:51, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

The hours/minutes/seconds get really short/long in the polar regions. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The caption can also be referring to the alteration of time zones for political reasons, such as China having only one now rather than the five it used to use, or the Republic of Kiribati pushing the International Date Line east of its entire territory. 17:50, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

Here is a YouTube video explaining the Japanese system (and how they created mechanical clocks to support it) - Begin Japanology - Clocks and Watches. -- Dhericean (talk) 18:15, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

Swatch time: Still more sensible than any other division of the day I've ever heard.

Seriously though, isn't it about time we all switched to metric? 10 segments in a day, not 24. 100 units in a segment. Straightforward, easy to figure pay rates, & pretty simple to convert to & from.

Increments of 24 & 60 have no relevance to anything these days. The only reason to continue using a 24hr day is because "that's how it's been done for ages" & that's no excuse for anything.

ProphetZarquon (talk) 18:23, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

I wouldn't mind redefining the division of a day. My problem would be with redefining the second, which would necessarily be a consequence of switching to metric time, and thus also the three base and nineteen derived SI units that depend on the current definition of s.
If you can switch us to metric time without redefining the length of a second, nor having an excessive number of leap seconds, I'm all for that. 21:19, 24 September 2018 (UTC)
Sure, quit worrying about what "day" it is. This probably won't be practical until most of the population is living off-world, but there's a bunch of SF novels where time is simply measured in "seconds", people say "back in a kilosec" and stuff like that. -- Resuna (talk) 13:08, 27 September 2018 (UTC)
The length of a day isn't even constant. If you had even divisions, the length of those divisions would be changing constantly. "'It's been done that way for ages' is no excuse" is irrelevant reasoning. A consistent system of time is needed (because good luck updating every computer constantly), and any one consistent method is as good as another because they can all be converted to each other (much like feet and meters can be). The one that's been in use the longest tends to have the most support. It's similar to how people don't have much of a reason to change keyboard layouts even though QWERTY or AZERTY or whatever regional preference may not actually be the most efficient. 23:52, 24 September 2018 (UTC)
You are not first with this idea. -- Hkmaly (talk) 03:51, 25 September 2018 (UTC)
No way. There is a very good excuse for using the current system and it's "everybody is using it". Getting the entire globe to agree on any standard is next to impossible, let's not fracture it by advocating a new system and end up with 927:_Standards. 08:25, 1 October 2018 (UTC)

Here's a Youtube video that talks about just how bad time systems can get. 23:52, 24 September 2018 (UTC)

Jewish practice today still uses the system of relative hours (see Wikipedia quotes, below). The earliest and latest times where various prayers must be said, and a variety of other time-based obligations are based on specific numbers of relative hours since dawn. Most of the time, this isn't a problem, but Jews living in extreme latitudes can find this very difficult. Shamino (talk) 15:59, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Weird numbers and the metric system? Before you try to get rid of 24 and 60 from time, why not get rid of the weird number that runs all through the metric system: 10. It really doesn't have any relevance except to a fluke of biology. And don't forget, they started with one ten millionth of the distance from the north pole to the equator, through Paris. --Divad27182 (talk) 20:17, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Some ICs use 65536 "seconds" per day internally, for example, 6AM is 0x4000 and 6PM is 0xC000. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Could this also possibly relate to the quote "Even a broken clock is right twice a day," except in this case, it's twice a year? 20:50, 29 September 2018 (UTC)

From Wikipedia

In Judaism, an hour is defined as 1/12 of the time from sunrise to sunset, so, during the winter, an hour can be much less than 60 minutes, and during the summer, it can be much more than 60 minutes. This proportional hour is known as a sha'ah z'manit (lit. "temporal hour" [[1]]). A Jewish hour is divided into 1080 halakim (singular: helek) or parts. A part is 3⅓ seconds or 1/18 minute. The ultimate ancestor of the helek was a small Babylonian time period called a barleycorn, itself equal to 1/72 of a Babylonian time degree (1° of celestial rotation).[6] These measures are not generally used for everyday purposes. -- Kg (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Wikipedia: Hebrew Calendar: Days and hours


In old times, the hour was detected by observation of the position of the sun, or when the first three stars appeared in the night sky. During the first six hours of the day, the sun is seen in the eastern sky. At the sixth hour, the sun is always at its zenith in the sky, meaning, it is either directly overhead, or parallel (depending on the hemisphere). Those persons living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun at noon time will appear overhead slightly towards the south, whereas for those living in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun at noon time will appear overhead slightly towards the north. From the 6th and a half hour to the 12th hour, the sun inclines towards the west, until it sets. The conclusion of a day at the end of twilight may slightly vary in minutes from place to place, depending on the elevation and the terrain. Typically, nightfall ushers in more quickly in the low-lying valleys, than it does on a high mountaintop.

The conventional Jewish way of calibrating the time of day is to reckon the "first hour" of the day with the rise of dawn (Hebrew: עמוד השחר‬), that is to say, approximately 72 minutes before sunrise, and the end of the day commencing shortly after sunset when the first three medium-size stars have appeared in the night sky. From the moment of sunset when the sun is no longer visible until the appearance of the first three medium-size stars is a unit of time called evening twilight (Hebrew: בין השמשות‬). In the Talmud, twilight is estimated at being the time that it takes a person to walk three quarters of a biblical mile (i.e. 1,500 cubits, insofar that a biblical mile is equal to 2,000 cubits). According to Maran's Shulhan Arukh, a man traverses a biblical mile in 18 minutes, meaning, one is able to walk three quarters of a mile in 13½ minutes. According to Maimonides, a man walks a biblical mile in 24 minutes, meaning, three quarters of a mile is done in 18 minutes. In Jewish law, the short period of dusk or twilight (from the moment the sun has disappeared over the horizon until the appearance of the first three stars) is a space of time whose designation is doubtful, partly considered day and partly considered night. When the first medium-size star appears in the night sky, it is still considered day; when the second star appears, it is an ambiguous case. When the third star appears, it is the beginning of the first hour of the night. Between the break of dawn and the first three medium-size stars that appear in the night sky there are always 12 hours.

In the Modern Age of astral science and of precise astronomical calculations, it is now possible to determine the length of the ever-changing hour by simple mathematics. To determine the length of each relative hour, one needs but simply know two variables: (a) the precise time of sunrise, and (b) the precise time of sunset. Since the actual day begins approximately 72 minutes before sunrise, and ends 13½ minutes after the sun has already set and can no longer be seen over the horizon (according to Maran), or 18 minutes (according to Maimonides), by collecting the total number of minutes in any given day and dividing the total number of minutes by 12, the dividend that one is left with is the number of minutes to each hour. In summer months, when the days are long, the length of each hour during daytime can be as much as 77 minutes or more, whereas the length of each hour during nighttime can be less than 42 minutes.

Wikipedia: Relative hour (Jewish law) -- Shamino (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Compound time

It struck me that 6/6 would be a musical time signature with six beats each of wich were a sixth note - so someing like dotted quaver. -- Arachrah (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Similarity in Temperature

The arbitrary selection of sunrise and sunset seems to take stab at how celsius is defined - at freezing and boiling points of water (at least before 1954), which can also shift with elevation. But of course fahrenheit is even worse. Colonelheero (talk) 19:12, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Corrections required

The second paragraph is just wrong in stating that sunrise and sunset are determined by longitude. The time of sunrise and sunset vary both by longitude and latitude. Picture the nearly sinewave shape of the terminator line on a Mercator map. Only when the sun crosses the ecliptic does the terminator become a "square wave" and the sunrise and sunset are the same regardless of latitude.

Also the statement that at 12am the sun isn't always at the zenith is a strong understatement; 12am is midnight and the sun would be closer to the nadir point than to the zenith point. The correction would be to refer to 12pm. 01:48, 26 September 2018 (UTC)

Here's an implementation of that clock. 13:52, 28 June 2019 (UTC)

Here's a blog post on this from 2016, which describes it as Greek time. It contains code for the clock as well. Arcorann (talk) 08:16, 19 January 2020 (UTC)