Time and tide



You have probably heard the saying “Time and tide wait for no man.”

Being a curious person I did a little research on the origin of this proverb. It dates back to the year 1395 and was used by Chaucer in his prologue to “Clerk’s Tale.” Interesting, eh??

It means time and the movement of tides have their own schedule and human events are in no way able to influence them. Well, we knew that, didn’t we? But Albert Einstein in his Theory of Relativity gave us a bit of a modification to our concept of time. I can’t explain it in simple terms, so I won’t try. Let’s just say time can be a little flexible under certain circumstances, such as travel at very high velocities .

We like to know what time it is. Back in my elementary school days our classrooms always had a pendulum-driven Regulator clock to tell us what time it was—if we knew how to read the time from it. Being kids we soon learned when to expect recess, lunch, recess again and school letting out. Mom and dad usually made sure we were out the door in time to get to the schoolhouse. So we learned about time pretty early in our lives. One way or another.

Early man learned about time by watching the movement of the sun, and at night the stars. As we looked for ways to measure and display time we went through a series of interesting inventions. There was the hourglass— accurate as long as someone remembered to flip the glass over when the hour was up. There was the sundial, which worked fine in daylight hours, unless the sky was really cloudy. And then someone figured out that pendulums have a stable and predictable cycle rate. Thus the pendulum clock. 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day, seven days per week and so on.

So why does February of 2020 have 29 days instead of the usual 28? Very simple. With all our timekeeping science we managed to lose a day every four years, and the Leap Day makes up for it. This has more to do with the movement of the Earth relative to the sun, but it lets us keep better track of seasons. Time and Tide.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.

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