A Brief History of Time

iStock
iStock

You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

Why Are Elections Held on Tuesdays?

iStock/YinYang
iStock/YinYang

Ever wonder why Americans always vote in federal elections on Tuesdays? There are a few reasons—including a little something to do with the horse and buggy.

Between 1788 and 1845, states decided their own voting dates. In 2012, then-Historian of the Senate Don Ritchie told NPR that strategy resulted in chaos, a "crazy quilt of elections" held all across the country at different times to pick the electors—the white, male property owners who would cast their votes for president on the first Wednesday of December. In 1792, a law was passed mandating that state elections be held within a 34-day period before that day, so most elections took place in November. (Society was mostly agrarian; in November, the harvest was finished but winter hadn’t yet hit, making it the perfect time to vote.)

The glacial pace of presidential elections wasn't a huge issue in the late 18th and early 19th centuries—communication was slow, so results took weeks to announce anyway—but with the advent of the railroad and telegraph, Congress decided it was time to standardize a date. Monday was out, because it would require people to travel to the polls by buggy on the Sunday Sabbath. Wednesday was also not an option, because it was market day, and farmers wouldn’t be able to make it to the polls. So it was decided that Tuesday would be the day that Americans would vote in elections, and in 1845, Congress passed a law that presidential elections would be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

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This article originally ran in 2012.

Titanic II Is Preparing to Set Sail in 2022, and You Can Be On Board

Roderick Eime, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Roderick Eime, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Titanic is getting a sequel. No, James Cameron isn’t making another movie. A nearly identical replica of the doomed ship is scheduled to make its maiden voyage in 2022, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, giving superfans the chance to experience the journey for themselves.

Dubbed the Titanic II, the new ship will start out in China, where it's under construction now, traveling to Dubai before picking passengers up in Southampton, England and following the original vessel’s 1912 route across the Atlantic to New York City. Of course, the original R.M.S. Titanic never reached its destination. It struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, and more than half of the ship’s 2200 passengers perished when it sank.

Although the modern ship’s design is modeled after the original, there are a few notable differences. It will hold slightly more passengers—2400 in total, plus a 900-person crew—and will be 13 feet wider to meet modern regulations (and increase stability). Plus, passengers can rest easy knowing that the newer version is equipped with modern safety and navigation features, as well as detailed evacuation plans.

The superstitious probably won't be snatching up tickets for a ride on the revived Titanic, but history buffs and fans of the movie will likely appreciate the ship’s vintage decor and attention to detail. The Titanic II will have the same cabin layout, public areas, swimming pool, Turkish baths, and grand staircase as the original ship. When construction is completed, there will be nine floors and 840 cabins, and passengers will have their pick of first, second, or third-class tickets.

The Titanic II is the brainchild of Australian businessman Clive Palmer, who established a shipping company called Blue Star Line in 2012 in order to make the project a reality. The ship is under construction now and is expected to cost $500 million. It was originally slated to set sail in 2016, but financial issues delayed the departure first until 2018, and again until 2022.

After completing its journey to New York, the Titanic II will “circumnavigate the globe, inspiring and enchanting people while attracting unrivaled attention, intrigue, and mystery in every port she visits,” Palmer tells MSN.

Tickets aren't on sale yet, but keep an eye on the Blue Star Line website for updates.

[h/t AJC]

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