11 curious facts about time

curious facts about time
Time is inherent to our lives and to everything we do. Life itself is defined by the passing of time. Our routines are ruled by clocks as are our favorite TV shows. Some people have too much time on their hands while others feel that time is running out. Then there are those stuck in the past, those who only look at the future, and those who enjoy the here and now. Yet, few people know much about it. If you want to break away from this group, here are some 11 curious facts about time to increase your trivia knowledge.

1. The fourth dimension

Time can be defined as a progression of events. It moves only forward and never backward. It is impossible to touch it, smell it or see it, but because it can be measured it is sometimes considered the fourth dimension of reality.

2. No one lives in the present

Despite the popularity of expressions such as “living in the present” or “enjoying the here and now”, the truth is that there is no such thing as the present or the now. 

The human brain takes approximately 80 milliseconds to perceive and interpret any event. In other words, what we perceive as “now” has already happened 80 milliseconds ago. Humans live in the past, even if the delay is minimal.

3. The science of horology

The science of measuring time and the art of making clocks and other devices for indicating time share the same name: horology. Surprisingly enough, this is one of the facts about time that people seem to be mostly unaware of. 

4. Time can be subjective

It is not possible to stop the clock, neither it is to slow it down or speed it up. Yet, everyone is familiar with the feeling that time runs much faster when you are having fun or have a deadline approaching, as opposed to when you are bored or at work when the hands of the clock seem to move at an impossibly slow pace.

No, your clock or watch is/was not broken at those times. The fault lies in your brain. When you say “I didn’t notice time passing by, " you speak the truth. When the brain is being stimulated or is focused on something, it tends to ignore the passage of time. On the contrary, when you are bored or doing an unpleasant task, your brain becomes more aware of the ticking clock, making it feel as if time is running slower.

5. History is longer than you think

Scientists believe that Earth is approximately 4.54 billion years old and civilization as we know is only 6,000 years old. In this period, many things happened as we know from history class. However, when we study historical civilizations we tend to think of them as single events and forget that they might have extended for centuries.

A good example of this is the Egyptian civilization, with its pyramids and pharaohs. You might be surprised to find out that the famous Cleopatra lived closer to our internet age than she did to the building of the pyramids.

6. The faster you move, the slower the time

This is one of the most known facts about time, but it never ceases to amaze. According to the theory of special relativity of Albert Einstein, the faster a body moves, the slower time passes. 

If one twin was to live on Earth and the other would travel through space, when returning home, the traveler would be much younger than their sibling. Astronaut Scott Kelly is one such example. Despite being born several minutes after his twin brother, when returning to Earth after spending close to a year living on the International Space Station he was actually 5 milliseconds younger than his sibling.

7. The GMT was only established in the 17th century

The Greenwich Mean Time, better known as GMT, was only established in 1675 by the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. Their goal was to help sailors determine their longitude at sea by using the time difference to the GMT as a reference point. 

Outside of this scope, the solar time was still being used as the main time measurement. This means that even though the GMT was established in England, the country still observed different times depending on the position of the sun in each town.

8. The standardized time arrived with the railways

Up until the 19th century, solar time was still being used to synchronize clocks. This presented a problem for railways that had to create thousands of time schedules for arrivals and departures at each city.

To try to solve this problem, the railways in England began using London-time as the standard schedule for the country in 1840. In 1883, the railway companies of the USA and Canada followed the example, creating a system of standardized time zones similar to what we see today.

9. A missed train resulted in the time zones

After missing a train, engineer Sandford Fleming set himself the task of finding a way to standardize the time. He proposed a system known as “Cosmic time”, in which the world would be split into 24 time zones spanning 15 degrees of longitude, with the time being set by an imaginary clock at the center of the Earth. His proposal was rejected but it became the foundation for what we now know as Universal time.

10. China has only one time zone

There are 24 time zones in total, divided according to Earth’s longitude. However, for political reasons, there are some exceptions to accommodate the boundaries of some countries within one single time zone. China is such an example.

If the rule of longitude applied, then China would have 5 different time zones within its territory but for practical reasons, only the time zone of Beijing, the capital, is observed. This gives rise to curious situations. For example, Urumqi, in the west part of the country, enjoys on average one hour more of sunlight compared to Beijing, even if both cities follow the same clock.

Another interesting fact that arises from this situation: if you cross the border from China to Afghanistan you need to adjust your clock to 3.5 hours less. Check out our world clock if you don’t believe us.

11. France has 12 time zones

Unlike China, France has adopted different time zones for its territory having a grand total of 12 time zones. The curious fact, in this case, is that the country of France itself only observes a single time zone. The remaining 11 are observed in its overseas territories.


We hope you enjoyed getting to know these curious facts about time and that they served as a boost to your general knowledge. And if you want to keep your learning journey going, be sure to also check out our blog to get to know 7 fun facts about clocks too!

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