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Q.

How many degrees (if any) are there in the angle between the hour and minute hands of a clock
when the time is a quarter past three?

consider the picture below:-

Clearly there is an angle between the hour and minute hand other than zero. This comes from
the fact that the hour hand, having been exactly on the '3' at 3 o'clock, doesn't simply stay
there whilst the minute hand is catching up. Rather it is one quarter of the way on it's journey
to 4 o'clock. So let us consider the angles clockwise from 12 o'clock so.
12 o'clock = 0
1 o'clock = 30
2 o'clock = 60
3 o'clock = 90
6 o'clock = 180
The simplest way to think of this is that each hour is made up of 30 and that the hour hand
will have moved one quarter of an hour past three o'clock. x 30 = 7.5

Q. A regular clock has an hour and minute hand. At 12 midnight the hands are exactly aligned.
When is the next time they will exactly align or overlap? How many times a day will they overlap?

(The 'Hands in a Straight Line' problem is further down the


page.) First thing is the answer is not 1:05 which might be your first thought. Why? See
answer of previous question. By the time the minute hand gets to five past one the hour hand
will have moved slightly past 1 o'clock. The hour hand after all does not wait at 1 o'clock for
an hour but rather it moves to 2 o'clock over the course of the next hour. The first overlap
will be a little after five past one.
The first approach is probably the most obvious; it's the most mechanically intuitive. We'll
use a variable 't' the time in hours. We know the speeds of the hands by definition the Minute
Hand will move one full rotation or 360 per hour. The Hour Hand makes a full rotation in 12
hours and will therefore move at 30 per hour. At our first overlap just after five past one the
Minute Hand will have done one full rotation plus the bit we are interested in. The Hour
Hand will have done just a part rotation of 't' times it's speed.
Hour Hand
30t
t
11t
t

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

Minute Hand
360t - 360
12(t - 1)
12
12/11
1.090909.. hours
65.454545454.. minutes
1h 5min 27.272727..seconds

The next method i would like to suggest is that we realise that the concept of 360 degrees is
an artificial construction. And not necessary to solve the problem. We can consider the
speeds only in term of revolutions per hour with the Minute and Hour Hands moving at 1 and
1/12 revolutions per hour respectively. The first line of our equation then becomes:
Hour Hand = Minute Hand
t/12 = t - 1

Probably the most elegant solution is to realise that the overlap will happen 11 times in a 12
hour period and so the answer is just 1/11th of 12 hours. It's difficult to difine this. But it
makes sense. Just as we reasoned our first overlap will be at just after 1:05 we can reason that
our last will be just before 10:55. Our overlaps will be at just after 1:05, a bit more after 2:10,
even more after 3:15 and so on (actual times give at the end) but since our last is a bit before
10:55 there will be no overlap whilst the Hour Hand is indicating 11. A Very Scientific
Approach below also gives us a way to realise this.

Let's first analyze the problem of overlapping clock's hour and minute hands. First set our
imaginary clock to 12:00 midnight which is the starting time for the problems time period.

As you see at start time when the period for calculation starts we have an overlapping
condition for clock's hour hand and minute hand.
Now assume that the clock's hour and minute hands overlap for the next time. The first
overlapping after 12:00 o'clock will happen between 1 o'clock and 2 o'clock. But we do not
know the exact time right now at this stage of the problem solution.

Let's examine the above situtation now. First of all, clock's hour hand only moved from
position 12 to a position between 1 and 2. What is interesting for the solution of this inteview
question is that at the same time period, the minute hand of the clock completed a full cycle
starting from 12 to 12 and additionally traveled the same distance as hour hand at the
overlapping time.
Here is a drawing displaying the case visually to help you understand the hint for the solution
of "how many times a day a clock's hands overlap?".

We have one base mathematical equation for this problem that will lead us to solution. The
minute hand is 12 times faster than the hour hand. If you think of the time passing from 12:00
o'clock to 1 o'clock, the minute hand travels 360 degrees. On the other hand the hour hand
travels 1/12 of 360 degrees. Or in a different thinking, in a specific time period (t) minutes,
the minute hand travels (360 * t) / 60 degrees But at the same time the hour hand only travels
1/12 of that degree: (360 * t) / (60 * 12) degrees.
An other equation comes from the passed hours. Each passing hour the minute hand
completes a full cycle. Let's say that the hour hand traveled (n) degrees. So we can say at
when they overlap each other the minute hand traveled (360 + n) degrees at the same time as
hour hand.
So we can now say that while hour hand travels (n) degrees the minute hand will travel
(12*n) degrees. The result that will outcome from this additional equation with first
mathematical equation will be as follows:
12 * n = 360 + n
Of course 360 degrees is true if only 1 hour has passed.
If two hours passed, then the formula will be: 12 * n = 360*2 + n
So we can re-formulate the equation as follows:
12 * n = 360 * h + n
Now replace n the degree the hour hand traveled in time t, (360*t)/(60*12)
12 * (360*t)/(60*12) = 360 * h + (360*t)/(60*12)
11 * (360*t)/(60*12) = 360 * h
11 * t / 2 = 360 * h
11 * t = 720 * h
For first hour we can replace h with 1 and we can solve the equation for first overlap after
12:00 o'clock
t = 720 /11 = 65,45 minutes
There is an other tricky conversion here the decimal part of the time. We need to convert it to
seconds.
0,45 minutes = 45/100 minutes = 45*60/100 seconds= 27 seconds
So the first overlap is at 65 minutes 27 seconds later which means 1:05:27
Then we can continue calculation for the second overlap of clock's hands. This will occur
between 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock. This means minute hand of the clock will travel 2 times full
circle and plus the same amount as hour hand.

We will make our reference frame that of the Hour Hand. (Either would work.) The problem
will exist from the perspective of someone stood on the Hour Hand with no other visual cues;
all he can see is the minute hand. In the external reference frame the Minute Hand moved
with speed (or angular velocity, since we are now speaking physics) 1 revolutions per hour
and the Hour Hand with 1/12th. To move into the frame of reference of the Hour Hand we
subtract it's speed from that of the Minute Hand to give the Minute Hand's speed in the Hour
Hand's reference frame. As in 1 - 1/12th. In our new frame of reference the Minute Hand
moves at an angular velocity of 11/12ths revolutions per hour. Coincidence or overlap occurs
every time the Minute Hand makes a complete revolution. The question of how many
revolutions something moving at 11/12ths revolutions per hour makes in a 12 hour period is
trivial.
If we have by now proven that there are 11 overlaps in a 12 hour period, clearly there are 22
overlaps in a 24 hour period.

Hands form a straight line

This comes up from time to time. The method is basically


the same as above but lets go for it.
The first approach is probably the most obvious; it's the most mechanically intuitive. We'll
use a variable 't' the time in hours. We know the speeds of the hands by definition the Minute
Hand will move one full rotation or 360 per hour. The Hour Hand makes a full rotation in 12
hours and will therefore move at 30 per hour. The first straight line after midnight will be
just after half an hour. We are looking for a point where the position of the hour hand plus
180 degrees is equal to the position of the minute hand.
Hour Hand + 180
30t + 180
t + 6
6
t

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

Minute Hand
360t
12t
11t
6/11
.545454.. hours
32.727272.. minutes
32min 43.636363..seconds

Full List of Overlap Times

Both AM and PM
01:05:27
02:10:55
03:16:22
04:21:49
05:27:16
06:32:44
07:38:11
08:43:38
09:49:05
10:54:33
12:00:00