How You Can Cheat Time Travel

It happens every year. A few travelers get to go back in time. They get in a special time machine, known as an airplane, on the break of New Year’s Day and then go back to the previous year. If they get the timing right they can celebrate multiple New Year’s Eve parties.

An airborne New Year’s Eve is definitively something one should add to their bucket list of things to try before their death.

This year CNN reported that seven planes went back in time. They took off in 2018 and landed back in 2017. FlightRadar24 tracked the international flights. Six of them took off from Taiwan. One took off from Auckland, New Zealand.

The way this works is there is a line agreed by the world to be the International Date Line (IDL). It runs from the North Pole to the South Pole approximately along the 180-degree meridian, swerving around a bit to capture countries and islands on either side. The IDL passes through the Pacific Ocean. When a traveler crosses the IDL, going from the west to the east, the date changes to the day before.

The reason this happens is the Earth has 24 time zones that divide the planet into imaginary pieces similar to segments of an orange. There is a line that runs through a part of London called Greenwich where the Royal Observatory is located. This line starts the counting of the time zones with Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) being the marking point for the start of each day. Then, as one goes around the earth to the east, every time zone increases one hour for every 15 degrees of the Earth’s circumference. Time can, therefore, be expressed as plus or minus a number of hours from GMT depending on the location in the world.

After passing around the world for 24 time zones, the date has to reset at the IDL to adjust for the difference in 24 hours. For example, between New Zealand, which is on the western side of the IDL, and Hawaii, which is on the eastern side of the IDL, there is a one day difference. New Zealand is already on the day after Hawaii, while Hawaii is designated as being part of the day before.

This is why it is possible to go back in time when flying across the IDL. The plane that left Auckland, New Zealand at just after midnight on the first of January, 2018, arrived in Hawaii around 10:00 a.m. on the previous day of Dec. 31, 2017. The six flights from Taiwan that all left on New Year’s Day and arrived on the West Coast of the United States, while it was still the day before. The only thing possibly better than celebrating one New Year’s Eve party is celebrating more than one on the same night. Now, that you know how to go back in time; add this cool trip to your bucket list.

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