New Earth Time a matter of degree

By MICHAEL FOREMAN

Aucklander Mark Laugesen believes he may just have solved an emerging problem in the internet age: the requirement for a unified system of time.

Traditional time expressed in hours and minutes that are meaningful in only one time zone has lost its relevance in a globally connected community, Mr Laugesen says.

A growing requirement to record the timing of electronic transactions as well as all forms of human interaction over the net, from chat rooms to internet gaming, are all fuelling the need for a universal and neutral time standard.

His answer, dubbed New Earth Time (NET), is to divide the day up into 360 degrees of the earth's rotation or "earthbeats." Under the NET system 15 earthbeats equals one hour.

"If you are going to play a game over the internet, it's much easier to say to someone that you will meet them at 135 degrees today rather than 9 o'clock Greenwich Mean Time."

Mr Laugesen says the New Earth Day begins at midnight on the Greenwich meridian but he denies that NET is simply GMT dressed up in different clothes.

"It's anchored on GMT for ease of use. It has to be anchored somewhere.

"We tried the International Date Line but that didn't work at all. Everyone seemed to be 24 hours behind it or ahead of it."

Mr Laugesen has established a website to promote the concept and has formed a company, degree NET, to exploit his brainchild commercially.

He is aware that there have been similar attempts at establishing internet time, notably by the Swiss watch manufacturer Swatch.

"I might [also] sell the idea to a watchmaker as a gimmick. These are the sort of people who do not have any friction to the idea."

Mr Laugesen says people's attitudes to the idea have changed markedly in the 10 months he has spent so far developing the project.

"At first people said: 'What? What on earth are you on about?' But now they are beginning to see the need for something like this. They see how the world is shrinking and the internet has become one place. I don't get those sideways glances any more."

Mr Laugesen says the website is attracting increasing numbers of visitors and in the past few days he has received four or five overseas press inquiries, but he is not expecting his concept to take off overnight.

"It's an idea whose time will come. Not tomorrow, perhaps, but I'm looking five or 10 years on."

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