TO THE DAY BELONGS TODAY
Dr. James Merritt
1. One of the most fascinating books I have ever read
in my life is the book entitled NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE
WORLD, about the building of the inter-continental
railroad. That book fascinated me for a number of
reasons none the least of which, through reading it I
discovered that time in America didn't really matter
at all before the coming of the locomotive. Listen to
With the coming of the railroad time became so
important that popular phrases including: "Time Was,"
"Time is wasting," "Time's up," "The train is leaving
the station," became standard conversational talk.
What is called "Standard Time" came about because of
the railroad. Before that localities set their own
time. Because the railroads published schedules, the
country was divided into four time zones. (1)
2. Think about this: In 1790 less than 10% of
Americans had a clock of any kind in their homes, and
the vast majority of those had no minute hand. Alarm
clocks and wrist watches were unknown until the end of
the 19th century.
3. Now fast forward to the year 2003. On my desk in
my study at home is a unique clock. It is attuned to
an atomic clock that calibrates the exact time to one
billionth of a second. In northwest Washington on the
grounds of the United States Naval Observatory in a
concrete building is the nerve center of the U.S.
Directorate of Time. In that building sit twenty-
eight atomic clocks, four of them holding atoms of
hydrogen and the rest cesium. When hit by lasers
from microwaves, the atoms begin to dance with the
vibration that is monitored by computers. Once each
second, the results are fed into America's master
clock. The measurements from this and similar clocks
around the world are sent to the International Bureau
of Weights and Measures outside of Paris and is
accurate to one billionth ...
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