Monday, October 15, 2007

A Geography Quiz

China and Brazil. Both very big countries. One of them has a single time zone throughout and the other currently has 7 time zones. Which is which?

You were wrong.

The answer is: Brazil 7, China 1. (Sort of what you'd expect if they played soccer against each other).

I was in China earlier this year and went as far west as Tibet (parts of which are about as far from Beijing/Shanghai as San Francisco is from New York). Still, a single timezone throughout.

In Brazil the situation is much more complicated, as the country is challenged both in longitude and latitude. Ordinarily, Brazil spans 4 time zones. However, now they just moved to daylight saving's time.

If you live close to the equator, then the concept of seasons is rather abstract, so DST makes no sense and the northerners ignore it. As a result, the northern part of the country spans 4 time zones on standard time, and the southern part spans 3 time zones on daylight savings time (I realize this means there is an overlap between the timezones so if you're being strict there are only 4 or 5). But if you're flying around Brazil, as I'm doing now, there are 7 zones for you to grasp with.

I flew in to Rio on Saturday, a few hours before they moved to DST. On sunday morning, having successfully woken myself an hour early, I flew to Joao Pessoa, where they're not on DST. Needless to say, things are messed up a bit, but in Brazil you just drink a little more and relax.


Demian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Demian said...

Dear Alon,

First of all, kudos for visiting Brazil!!!

I'm Brazilian and I can totally see the confusion regarding the "7" time zones. I like to think about our time zones as follows- at any given time, we have four time zones, and the parts of the country in each zone is determined by whether we're in DST or not. Usually, just the states in the S and SE regions move from GMT-3 to GMT-2 during DST. I'll give you one thing though- it is quite confusing if you just look at the time zones on a map!

Hope you're enjoying the caipirinhas!


Anant said...

Hey Alon, I knew that China had one time zone. Therefore, combined with your multiple choice, I knew that Brazil had 7. So you were wrong when you said you were wrong :)
great fun reading the explanation, though!