For anyone who’s ever traveled abroad, jet lag can be your worst enemy. After a long flight, the clock on your dresser will often say something completely different than the clock in your head.
Turns out, there are 24 time zones across the globe, spanning different regions and cultures. It’s fascinating to think that when New Yorkers are getting ready to start their day, people in Tokyo are 14 hours ahead and are preparing for bed.
Here are 11 fascinating things you probably didn’t realize about time zones.
The Transcontinental Railroad sparked the creation of time zones in the US.
Prior to the railroad, the US government followed thousands of local time zones. However, once the railroad was completed, railroad companies were instrumental in lobbying the government to develop four time zones so the train could stick to an accurate schedule.
There’s a universal standard time called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
This time zone runs along the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude) and symbolizes the universal starting point for every time zone in the world.
It gets its name from the English city of Greenwich for which it passes through. Today, the time zone is now formally known as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), but GMT is still commonly used.
France has the most time zones in the world.
It’s definitely not the world’s largest country, but France leads the world in number of time zones with a total of 12.
This is because France still holds territories around the globe, from French Polynesia (10 hours behind UTC) to the islands of Wallis and Futuna (12 hours ahead of UTC).
China is massive, but only follows one time zone.
In 1949 under Mao Zedong, the Chinese government switched from five time zones to one: Beijing Standard Time.
The switch aimed to promote national unity, but in eastern areas of the country, the sun doesn’t rise until 10 a.m.
The North Pole and the South Pole don’t have official time zones.
Because all of the longitude lines — which define time zones — meet at the two poles, the North Pole and the South Pole do not have official time zones.
Instead, some international research centers follow their home country’s time zone, while others follow the time zone of the nearest inhabited area. Still others simply follow UTC.
Astronauts on the ISS age slower than humans on Earth.
The International Space Station (ISS) follows GMT, but time is much more complicated. Since the gravitational pull is far weaker in space, the ISS zooms around Earth nearly five miles a second, but time moves slightly slower than on Earth’s surface.
If an astronaut spent six months on ISS, for example, he or she will age about 0.005 seconds slower than the rest of us. Still confused? Here’s a great explanation.
Arizona and Hawaii are the only US states that don’t follow daylight saving time.
Hawaii does not follow daylight saving time and for the most part, neither does Arizona. In The Grand Canyon State, the heat from the daylight can be unbearable, which causes most residents to schedule their outdoor activities in the evening hours when it’s much cooler.
An island in the Baltic Sea follows two time zones.
The teeny tiny island of Märket in the Baltic Sea follows two time zones because it’s controlled by both Sweden and Finland.
The Swedish half of the island follows local Swedish time and the Finnish half follows local Finnish time, according to Listverse.
Jet lag is worse if you head east instead of west.
A University of Maryland study found that traveling west is easier for our internal clocks to understand because it simply extends our days while traveling east does the opposite.
If you do end up catching a bad case of jet lag, here are some helpful tips to combat it.
North Korea created its own time zone — because why not.
In August 2015, North Korea decided to break with “imperialism” and go back to its original time zone of 8.5 hours behind GMT, used before the Korean liberation from Japan.
Interestingly, North Korea made the switch the same day as the 70th anniversary of the liberation.
No, daylight saving time was not created to benefit farmers.
Contrary to popular belief, American farmers never supported daylight saving time. It’s been America’s urban populations, specifically retailers and corporations, that have lobbied to continue it in order to take advantage of summer daylight.