We know time zones as a necessary evil: harbingers of jet lag, the bane of conference calls. We tolerate them, because, well, everyone else seems to, even if negotiating a Skype meeting regularly degrades into a humiliating reminder of the difficulty of combining elementary arithmetic and geography. Logically, time zones should neatly divide the planet into 24 identical segments, cut in parallel to the lines of longitude. However, this rational division is the exception rather than the rule. Time zones entangle the world in an invisible, irregular net, whose weave distorts around centers of power. A time zone is, above all, a sovereign choice, an indicator of political proximity or political distance. Almost the entire EU, from the extreme west coast of Spain to the Belarusian border, fits within the same time zone. The famous late meals and siestas associated with Spain are...

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