(If you’re thinking this article is too long to read, there’s a summary. Scroll down and read that.)
Let’s start with the name: Daylight Saving Time. It’s a misnomer. It may have to do with time, but it does not save daylight. We haven’t found any way to alter time at all, let alone bottle it up. Not yet. We can alter our perceptions of it, but we can’t change it. Time is time. Unalterable, it’s a force which pulls us from one end and pushes us from the other. Inescapable, time is an attribute of our universe, a measure of our growth, and a thing to ponder.
Next, let’s go through the basics of Daylight Saving Time (DST) for those who might not understand it. DST is a method of shifting clocks forward and backward one hour in the spring and fall. It’s also a tradition for some people, when they shift their clocks forward one hour in the springtime, and back one hour in the fall. That’s all. The point where some readers might get confused is that Daylight Saving Time, or DST for short, can refer to the act of shifting clocks, AND to the time of year when the clock is set 1 hour different than what it should be. “Standard Time” is what some people call the months between November and February, so the months between March and October would be “Daylight Saving Time”. That’s interesting in itself since the length of each would suggest the opposite is true. Standard Time would be used the most, if it was really the standard. The 8 months of March through October versus the 4 months of November through February? “We’ve always done it that way,” seems to be the only reasoning needed for those who follow it.
As for me, I’m bucking the myth, the tradition, and the ritual.
First, the myth. Some people alternately joke about gaining an hour of sleep, losing an hour of sleep, getting to church early, going to work later, and even being able to milk the cows earlier. None of these jokes have anything to do with reality, even though they might be fun to repeat. If you wanted to milk the cows earlier, just as an example, then you could do that with or without a clock. Shifting a clock bears no reasonable influence on when you decide to milk your cows. Gaining and losing sleep is the same. Unless you’re a dependent, relying on someone else to tell you when it’s bedtime, then you make the decision to sleep or not. Grown men and women don’t need to rely on some outside advisor to get them the sleep they need, or to skip the necessary amount of sleep. As an independent individual, you can make the choices that affect your sleep cycle. Whether you go to church on time is a matter between you and God. Work, on the other hand, may have some deciding factors. If your business is a customer-based business, then you may have to bow a bit to the paying customer. If you’re in a service industry, and your work can be done at any time, then the clock has little to do with your schedule. You can manipulate your schedule to whatever is most effective.
Second, the tradition. Tradition is what keeps people doing the same thing over and over again, despite the ridiculous nature of…Third, the ritual. Tradition and ritual are linked through what we do and when. Some traditions have value. Seeing family around Thanksgiving is a way to renew familial interests. A strong family will benefit society in many ways. However, the tradition and ritual of toying with clocks to pretend there is more daylight, or that daylight is somehow “saved” has little benefit to society.
Now that I’ve covered the basics of so-called Daylight Saving Time, let’s get into the basics of how we humans measure time. We measure time by the sun, when our planet Earth is facing it, and when it is turned away. We humans are diurnal creatures, mostly, so we measure our time by days. Though we could measure time by the Moon, it wouldn’t be as effective, because we don’t live so much in the night. (You could try it, but remember you need your vitamin D.) Since we measure time by days and the sun, it logically follows that we should measure our days by the longest day. If you live along the equator somewhere, then your days are all the same length, and your nights are too. Where I live, between the 40th and 41st parallels, there is a longest day of the year and a shortest day of the year. There are also sequential days and nights of relatively equal length called equinoxes. So for my area, where I live (between the 40th and 41st parallels), the time should be regulated by that longest day of the year. And it should be based on the time when the sun appears to be at the peak of its arc in the sky. In other words, I should set my clock once a year, if I needed to set it at all, and I should set it to midday of the longest day of the year. In 2018 that day was June 21st. (Well, as you might see, because I’ll include data at the end of this article, the longest day may have been June 22nd. Whether that even matters is moot. What does matter is whether I doubt my data, or not. A scientist who doesn’t doubt their own data is too full of themselves to be much use to anyone. They should quit science and go milk cows.) I got 5:57 for the time of sunrise on June 22nd and the time of sunset at 9:03. That’s a day with 15 hours of daylight. Noon on that day, or the peak of the sun’s apparent arc, interestingly enough, happened at about 1:20 on that day. Shadows were at their shortest. The sun appeared directly above, and it was a hot day. There were few clouds in the sky. So according to this estimate, I should be starting my day at least 20 minutes earlier! The hour discrepancy may be left the way it is as far as my personal preferences go (I prefer more light in the evening, and so do many others, considering how many more months we prefer to use the offset time), but that extra 20 is disturbing to a scientific mind. My clock, which should be based on daylight, is off by an hour—and more—from the day with the most daylight. My clock is 1 hour and 20 minutes ahead already. Daylight Saving Time can’t fix that. Only a cognizance based in reality can fix that.
Here are a couple of ways to look at that visually:
My clock: 1:20
The sun: 12:00
So the rest of the day would have looked like this:
My clock, Sunrise 5:57 Midday 1:20 Sunset 9:03
The sun, Sunrise 4:37 Midday 12:00 Sunset 7:43
The above would be a corrected version of the daylight clock. Basing our clock on the longest day of the year is only one way to fix the system. There are other ways, and some are better ways.
The Half-Hour Shift. There have been some very wise people weighing in on the discussion about DST. One of the wisest ideas is to simply shift the clock forward 30 minutes in the spring when Daylight Saving Time supposedly “begins”, or back 30 minutes in the fall when DST supposedly “ends”, and then everyone leaves their clocks at that time forevermore. The end result is that you would have a time that appeases those who enjoy DST and those who do not. Easy. Simple. Wise. The opponents to this simple solution cry, “But…tradition!” I personally think that this compromise method is the best, though it’s sad to say the simplicity of it would probably put a lot of people off. It would confuse them. I can almost hear them thinking, “You mean we never change the clock again? Wouldn’t it be weird to only change it 30 minutes?” Or so I presume. Why is it that the most simple solutions are the ones that get the most negative feedback? Never mind that. I can’t really foresee the future. I think I’ll try this one on November 4th this year. Call it an experiment. I’ll take notes on whether it messes with people’s heads, or if they can accept the time altered only slightly. Maybe they’ll be less confused than I’m imagining.
Inconsistent Divisions. This is a method of still dividing the day and night into 12 hour periods, but as the day and night get longer and shorter, the divisions, or the hours, flex with the day and night. So in times when the night is longer than the day, hours would be shorter in the day, longer at night. In times when the day is longer than the night, day hours would be longer, night hours shorter. Both day and night would be 12 hour periods, but divided inconsistently. DST would not be needed in this system, if it was ever needed in the first place.
Metric Time. The entire clock could be divided into 10 equal parts, or even day and night each in 10 equal parts. This is a method that has been discussed by mathematicians over the years, but no one has taken them seriously. Tradition gets in the way of this one also. An interesting effect of Metric Time would be that our hours would seem much longer. A 10 hour clock would have longer hours than a 24 hour clock. One disadvantage to Metric Time is that you could still unreasonably shift the clock for DST.
Apparent Time. This is actually regarded as a scientific principle, even though it means basing the time of day on where the sun appears in the sky. Apparent time is like looking up at the sun and saying, “It’s 4:30.” It sounds very unscientific. Maybe because it’s so simple, it seems to be a lesser method. And yet…have you ever wondered about people who live on the edges of “time zones”? With the adoption of Apparent Time, there would be no time zones. Time zones have nebulous borders anyway, so Apparent Time would fix that broken part of the current system.
How simply Apparent Time COULD operate, if we started using it. We have Global Positioning Systems in many of our electronic devices already. Apparent Time could use a global locator to tell your time-keeping device where on Earth you are, what elevation, what latitude and longitude, and give you a more accurate, and more meaningful time of day. Say for instance, you’re at sea level, near the equator, but not quite at it, you have no obstructions to see the sun as it rises, and you’re at the edge of a so-called time zone. In the old antiquated system, you could say the time is 6:00 AM, or 7:00 AM, depending on which time zone you think you’re in. With Apparent Time, you wouldn’t have to guess or make a decision. Your exact location would be taken into account and the time would be determined for you by the amount of day ahead of you, especially the time at which you should see the sun high in the sky.
Even if you were in Scandinavia during the summer (Northern Hemisphere Summer) you could still have the correct time of day with Apparent Time, regardless of any lack of darkness to call a night. Likewise, at the other end of the year, when there is no sunlight to calculate a day, you could still have a “midday” and a “midnight”.
Apparent Time would make the excuses for DST pointless, because the clock would remain the same, unless you changed your position on the globe. Only distance between physical locations would change the clock, not indistinct and antiquated rules. Traditions and rituals wouldn’t change the clock if we implemented Apparent Time, and we would see that unreasonable shifting of hours was unnecessary.
The collective months of the year that are considered “Daylight Saving Time” are really the standard on account of that system being used more. This despite my data. The months of the year that are so-called “Standard” are fewer, so they are the odd months out. The time we choose on our clocks should represent the true standard not the named standard. You don’t “gain an hour” or “lose an hour” during the shifts of DST, because the hours are still there. The only thing that changes at DST is your perception of the time. Diurnal creatures, humans, should measure time by the sun (and then adjust as desired). Adjustments to the clock should not be capricious and continual. Adjustments should only be made for accuracy, or a change in your global position. If you live north of the equator, you should measure time by the day with the most daylight. Time measurement can be obtained by many methods. DST can be made better by many methods.
Whichever of these solutions you choose to use to remedy the outdated DST, I believe you’ll be wiser for it. Anyone who shifts a clock without reasoning should reconsider, rethink their position. That was one intent of this article: to help us all consider alternate measurements of our days. Secondary to that was the intent of announcing my declaration: I’m done shifting my clock.
And now the data for 2018:
|June 22 *||5:57||9:03|
|June 23||5: 57||9:02|
|September 22 (Autumnal Equinox?)||7:16||7:24|
|September 25 *||7:18||7:19|