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Carroll and the International Date Line

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  • guy_d_barry
    In Knot X of A Tangled Tale, Carroll poses the following problem: suppose it s midnight in Chelsea, changing from Wednesday to Thursday. Then it s Wednesday
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 25, 2011
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      In Knot X of A Tangled Tale, Carroll poses the following problem: suppose it's midnight in Chelsea, changing from Wednesday to Thursday. Then it's Wednesday west of Chelsea, and Thursday east of Chelsea; "and yet, if Ireland and America and so on call it Wednesday, and Germany and Russia and so on call it Thursday, there must be some place — not Chelsea — that has different days on the two sides of it. And the worst of it is, people there get their days in the wrong order: they've Wednesday east of them, and Thursday west — just as if their day had changed from Thursday to Wednesday!"

      He gives no solution in the Appendix, "partly because I have not yet received the statistics I am hoping for, and partly because I am myself so entirely puzzled by it". The problem was of course resolved by the establishment of the International Date Line along (roughly) the 180-degree meridian.

      Now I believe the instalment was first published in magazine form in March 1885, and the book in 1886. In October 1884, the International Meridian Conference had established the Greenwich meridian as the prime meridian, but I was intrigued to discover that the International Date Line was not fixed by this conference - indeed, it has never formed part of any international treaty! (See http://www.phys.uu.nl/~vgent/idl/idl_imc1884.htm for details.) Carroll, though, would presumably have been aware of the conference at the time of setting the problem.

      Furthermore, the need for such a line had been discussed well before Carroll addressed the issue - see http://www.phys.uu.nl/~vgent/idl/idl_17cen.htm for discussion of 17th-century proposals. So why was it so puzzling to Carroll?
    • Keith
      Guy, Lewis Carroll was no more puzzled by ‘Where the day began?’ than anyone else who had some intelligence at that time. He gave a lecture on the subject
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 25, 2011
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        Guy,
         
        Lewis Carroll was no more puzzled by ‘Where the day began?’ than anyone else who had some intelligence at that time. He gave a lecture on the subject to the Ashmolean society in November 1860. The problem had come to light when folk circumnavigated the globe and found upon return that their calendars were a day out, before that it did not matter as local time was everything. The number of people who were circumnavigated the globe was increasing and telegraph wires were stretching over the globe so the problem had to be resolved and as the British Empire was beginning to stretch to all corners then Greenwich was  the obvious point for zero degrees.
         
        Lewis Carroll knew what had to be done but he could not do anything other than point out the problem and have some fun while doing so.
         
        Regards,
         
        Keith W
         
         
         
        Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 8:42 AM
        Subject: [lewiscarroll] Carroll and the International Date Line
         
         

        In Knot X of A Tangled Tale, Carroll poses the following problem: suppose it's midnight in Chelsea, changing from Wednesday to Thursday. Then it's Wednesday west of Chelsea, and Thursday east of Chelsea; "and yet, if Ireland and America and so on call it Wednesday, and Germany and Russia and so on call it Thursday, there must be some place — not Chelsea — that has different days on the two sides of it. And the worst of it is, people there get their days in the wrong order: they've Wednesday east of them, and Thursday west — just as if their day had changed from Thursday to Wednesday!"

        He gives no solution in the Appendix, "partly because I have not yet received the statistics I am hoping for, and partly because I am myself so entirely puzzled by it". The problem was of course resolved by the establishment of the International Date Line along (roughly) the 180-degree meridian.

        Now I believe the instalment was first published in magazine form in March 1885, and the book in 1886. In October 1884, the International Meridian Conference had established the Greenwich meridian as the prime meridian, but I was intrigued to discover that the International Date Line was not fixed by this conference - indeed, it has never formed part of any international treaty! (See http://www.phys.uu.nl/~vgent/idl/idl_imc1884.htm for details.) Carroll, though, would presumably have been aware of the conference at the time of setting the problem.

        Furthermore, the need for such a line had been discussed well before Carroll addressed the issue - see http://www.phys.uu.nl/~vgent/idl/idl_17cen.htm for discussion of 17th-century proposals. So why was it so puzzling to Carroll?



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