We love our watches, don’t we? Yes, their significance in actual timekeeping may have lessened, given the number of digital devices we have on us, but a watch is still a watch. Smart or not.
So which watch is the best in the world? The obvious answer may be the one that keeps best time or the most accurate time. The less apparent question hidden within is – what is the most accurate time?
Someone said that “the second is the thing that ticks; time is the thing that counts the ticks.”
In reality, the time that we see on our watches, phones, clocks and the like are average clocks – or time by computation. This is Coordinate Universal Time, or U.T.C. Which in essence, are calculations that give information on time in the past, which is the month before.
By a process known as ‘steering’, laboratories that are members of U.T.C. refine their accuracy relative to the U.T.C., and so consistency matters more than accuracy. And so, technically, what we receive when we see our digital watches is a very near estimate of the correct time, which will not be known for a month or so.
The world’s best time – U.TC. – is produced by a committee that relies on advanced computers and algorithms and the input of atomic clocks, to arrive at an average.
A fascinating book on the subject is “Why Time Flies”, by Alan Burdick. He goes into detail on the clocks in nature, and our own bodies, demystifying the concept of time and destroying any misconceptions that we have about it.
A personal favorite fact in the book is that the human fetus displays clear signs of organized circadian activity even early in gestation, and in sync with the natural light-dark cycle outside the womb, despite not having any feedback from the world outside. Its hard-coded into us!
So, the next time someone says that they cannot keep time – well, you know what to say:)
See you tomorrow!