• TheConfused Father

How We Measure Time

Time is not a new concept at all and throughout history, a variety of methods have been used to measure time. From the cycles of the moon to the position of the stars to the angle of the sun throughout the day, humans have always found a way to count the passage of time. Though, time as we know it is a fairly new invention. It was not until 1670 that William Clement was able to build a device able to keep time accurate, to the second. In the 1940s the British Association for the Advancement of Science actually defined a second as 1/86,400th of a day. Finally, in 1967 a second was redefined as a precise number of radiation cycles of a cesium-133 ion, giving us a way to define time accurately without reference to any celestial activity. A clearly defined base unit like a second allows for a more accurate measure of minutes and hours. The hours make the days and the days make the weeks that we plan our daily lives around.

The other day I read a tweet that said “We have no proof that today is Thursday, we have just been trusting someone else to keep track since the first one.” At the time I just kind of chuckled and went on with my day. However, I have found myself thinking about it several times since then. We live in a world of well-defined quantities. Humans have found very specific ways of measuring lengths, weights, speeds, how powerful something is, and even the passage of time. Yet a measurement that almost everyone on the planet uses almost every day can’t be defined by any other means than the day before and after it.


Not that we have to worry about that anymore. With technological advances like computers and cell phones keeping track of our calendars, it is easy to get everyone on the same page as to not only what day it is but the time that it is as well. Phones self-update their times as we cross into new time zones making it easy for everyone to always know exactly what time it is no matter where they are. Phones also self-update for daylight savings time meaning no having to remember to change the clocks the night before in order to keep your alarms going off at the right time.


For people too young to tell time the time change has little impact though. The boys go to bed at 7 pm every night and consistently wake up at 6 am the next morning. One-year old’s don’t understand time, they just know how long they normally sleep. So, at 5 am this morning which had been 6 am 24 hours before that, they woke up, waking us up in the process. Same story for our soon-to-be three-year-old daughter. Schedules are great as a parent till something throws your kids off theirs. And nothing is better at ruining a well-developed schedule than daylight savings time.


But more on that later, like on March 14th next spring. I hope this post has found you in good health and of a sound, if not slightly behind schedule, mind. One hour behind and one day off schedule, I am still another confused father from Kansas wondering…


Where does the time go?

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