Tag Archives: time

More Clocks than Time

Walking around the house last night, setting all the clocks to Daylight Saving Time before bed, I found myself thinking: Why do we have so many clocks, anyway? They used to share one clock for a whole town!

OK, that’s not feasible these days, but every time we switch into and out of DST I miss some clocks because we have so many in the apartment, even though there are only three people.

  • Analog wall clocks in the dining room and each bedroom (bought when the kid was small so he’d be familiar with clock faces).
  • A waterproof clock in the bathroom for shower timing.
  • The cameras we use when we want to take higher-quality photos than a phone can (or when I just want to be able to take pictures of birds with a zoom lens so they don’t fly off before I get close enough to catch more than a vague silhouette in the photo). Related: How I fix the timestamp on photos when I forget to switch the camera’s time.
  • Alarm clocks we don’t use for alarms anymore since phones have nicer alarm tones, but they have glowing displays so we can see what time it is when we wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Watches we don’t wear anymore but the batteries last for years, so they’re still going.
  • The microwave has a clock.
  • The stove has a clock.
  • The coffee maker has a clock. (The display’s messed up, though, so we stopped bothering to set it.)
  • The stereo has a clock.
  • The car has a clock.

And that’s not counting the devices that automatically pull from a canonical time source over the internet. Every phone, computer, tablet or ebook reader tracks time, but at least they adjust themselves automatically!

Some of these we placed intentionally, like the wall clocks. Some need to track current time internally to function properly or to keep track of when things happened, like the phones and cameras. But some are just kind of extras.

The microwave doesn’t need a clock. It needs a countdown timer, yes, but the clock is just kind of there as something for the display to show when you’re not using it. I guess since they’re already building the timer circuitry into it, tracking current time doesn’t add much complexity. Same with the oven timer (countdown again) and the stereo (track/album length). Anything that has a display that might show hours/minutes/seconds for some purpose seems to get a clock as its default display. Whether you need it there or not.

Anyway, the upshot is, we have a ridiculous number of clocks for the number of rooms and people here. We always have the time, even though we never seem to have time.

Now I want to write a story about how time goes faster as you get older because you keep adding more clocks, and they use it up.

Three Kinds of Time

I was thinking about the timeline of DC Comics’ Earth-51 (home to the Great Disaster in Countdown to Final Crisis) and trying to wrap my head around what the past and present might mean for a world that’s been created and destroyed twice in as many years, and realized that some of the time paradoxes make much more sense if you consider that there’s more than one kind of time.

Real-world time is, as you’d expect, the time that passes between when two stories are published. For example, it’s been 45 years since Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962).

In-story time is the time that passes within a story. So even though it’s been 70 years since Superman first appeared on the newsstand, it’s only been 10–15 years since his debut within the DC Universe.

The tension between these two leads to a strange, fluid take on time, which has its own issues.

But then you get into time travel and cosmic retcons, and in-story time can’t quite explain things. Continue reading

How Long is a Day in Cyberspace?

I had an interesting thought looking at the Blog Action Day, um, blog, which remarked on what, for me, was Sunday:

And so we come to it at last… Blog Action Day has now officially begun for the first countries closest to the International Dateline.

I realized that it wasn’t going to stop after 24 hours the way that, for instance, Slashdot’s April Fools days run (GMT midnight to midnight). The event was designed to be October 15—not October 15 in a particular time zone. If you start with the first zone to reach a date, and run through the last zone to finish it, “October 15” would last about 48 hours.

I’m too sleepy to do the math myself, so I’ll trust Wikipedia’s entry on Time Zones:

Because the earliest and latest time zones are 26 hours apart, any given calendar date exists at some point on the globe for 50 hours. For example, April 11 begins in time zone UTC+14 at 10:00 UTC April 10, and ends in time zone UTC-12 at 12:00 UTC April 12.

So there you have it: a worldwide event tied to a calendar day but no time zone lasts 50 hours.

And here you thought things moved faster on Internet Time!

It’s Comics Time

Time in comics is a strange, fluid thing. When you keep adventure characters in print over the course of decades, you don’t want them to get old. And so characters like Superman, who debuted as twenty- or thirty-somethings 60+ years ago, are roughly the same age today.

This is hardly unique to superhero comic books. The same is true of James Bond movies, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, and even newspaper comic strips. (How long has Dennis the Menace been five years old?)

Still, it makes for interesting contradictions. If Superman debuted 14 years ago, he can hardly have met JFK, so clearly any stories dealing with him are no longer “canon.” On the other hand, if the story doesn’t depend on JFK having been the President at the time, the nefarious super-villain plot may still be part of Superman’s history. But sixty years of chronicled adventures crammed into fourteen years makes for a pretty busy life! (And how frequently does the US hold Presidential elections in the DC and Marvel universes?)

The time-squishing effect is easiest to see with flashbacks. Continue reading