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Why 1 degree corresponds to 60 min?

  1. Mar 26, 2008 #1
    I have a doubt: considering it takes 24h to a complete rotation of earth, why 1º corresponds to 60 min? It should be 4 min...

    Can you help me?

    Thanks you

    Nuno Silva
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 26, 2008 #2


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  4. Mar 26, 2008 #3
    So, this "minute" isn't the 1/60 of a hour?
  5. Mar 26, 2008 #4

    Doc Al

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    Staff: Mentor


    Don't confuse minutes of arc (a measure of angle) with minutes of time.

    1 degree = 60 minutes of arc.
  6. Mar 26, 2008 #5
    Thank you very much... After reading Around the World in Eighty Days, I became all mixed up! :-)
  7. Mar 26, 2008 #6
    These things are not based upon logic, so much as history. Even to very recent times, the English used 12 pence to a shilling, 20 shillings to a pound. This complicates arithmetic, of course, but bookkeepers easily mastered it.

    A reason for 60, like 12, is that it is easily divisible. So that in early times, it was used to facilitate making change and dividing up products. (Farmers, even in this country, favor the 12 makes a dozen eggs.) The Sumerians, and then the Babylonians, used the 60 system, but for hours it was 12 in the day and 12 at night. (This is not exactly the same as the 24 hour system, since some days are longer than others.) Where the Sumerians got the idea of 12 hours of daylight, is really hard to say.

    I once hear a joke, "How many fingers do the flying saucer people have counting both hands?"

    Answer: 10, we just don't know what base they use.

    However, that idea, the universality of 10, hardly explains the 12 and 60 system.
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