Humble Alternatives to Daylight Savings Time Ben Orlin Math March 17, 2021 1 Minute Share this:FacebookTwitterMoreEmailLike this:Like Loading... Taggeddaylight savings timemodest proposals for transforming the nature of time Published March 17, 2021
16 thoughts on “Humble Alternatives to Daylight Savings Time”
Dragon Savings Time – Get rid of an hour on 23 April to give pesky St George less time to kill dragons
Perhaps you already new this, but “Dilation Savings Times” with hours of varying length throughout the year was often the way hours were defined in ancient societies. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hour#Unequal_hours
And when clocks came in, clocks were considered less accurate than sundials for that reason!
Very cool! And apparently Japan had actual mechanical clocks that worked this way: https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo27442023.html
It didn’t only work that way in ancient societies. Modern day religious Jews also use such a system for the start and end times of the Jewish Sabbath and holidays and many laws of Judaism. Daylight hours are the length of the day divided into 12, and night hours are the length of the dark divided into 12. The only days on which the hours are exactly 60 minutes are the fall and spring equinoxes.
I-have-no-idea-time: remove the hour hand from all clocks.
This seems ideal. Or just go back to hourglasses.
Isn’t the world confused enough without having to change clock settings every six months? We already have time zones. Aren’t the solar cycles and the phases of the moon good enough for human beings? Nature and animals don’t need clocks at all.
Indeed, people didn’t bother with time-zones until the invention of train time-tables. When passengers with watches got off trains in Bristol after a ride from London, they found the local clocks were “wrong”; of course they weren’t, they were just on local solar mean time while the watch was still on London solar mean time.
However, train companies found it more practical to have a standard time – if someone needs to switch the tracks to let one train turn off one way, after an earlier one came through from the other turning, they need to get the timing right, which is easier if they have a clock that’s synchronised with the clocks on both trains and the ones in the stations they come through.
So we invented time-zones in the 1800s so that the trains can run on time – or not, as the case may be, but at least whether or not they do is well-defined.
That lead to each country having a zone, some defined by a particular observatory’s solar mean time, others by offsets from one or another of those. Holland’s zone was 19 minutes, 32 and a bit seconds ahead of GMT.
In due course, as international travel and communication became more common, having the differences between zones easy to work with, so countries tended over time to set their zones in relation to GMT; eventually, a few complications with that lead to an international effort to define some more precisely-specified standards, meeting different requirements, including UTC as the replacement for GMT (which still gets used as if it were an alias for UTC).
In the course of that, of course, various jurisdictions have changed what offset from UTC they want to use, so their time zones have “transitions” arising from those changes; these either repeat an interval of time (only in the zone’s description, of course) or skip one and they complicate the life of this humble software engineer, who maintains software that has to correctly take those transitions into account, and get the necessary information from somewhere.
Daylight Saving Time, however, is sold as a way to make the most of such daylight as we do get – I can imagine it really is a kindness to some folk whose working hours are inflexible and oblige them to get up painfully early each day. The fact that there are tropical zones using it, however, baffles me.
It bothers me slightly that we spend less time on “standard time” than off of it. It is not really the standard, now is it.
Reminds me of something I read somewhere: only 3% of German verbs are “regular,” and some of the “irregular” conjugations are in fact more common than the regular conjugation.
(So what makes it “regular”? If you coin a new verb, German speakers will spontaneously apply the regular conjugation.)
Ireland tackles that by having its summer time be standard time and describing its winter time as daylight-saving. The clocks move the same way on the same dates as the rest of the Western European Time Zone, but the DST offset is minus an hour in winter and zero in summer.
Also see https://www.babylonianhours.com/ for a modern-tech implementation of Babylonian time.
I haven’t found the following idea mentioned on the web anywhere.
What about the idea of making sunrise 7AM everyday (per time zone, of course). That way, it will be light when kids go to school (and usually when they go home). Each day will be a little shorter or longer than the previous day. That can be made up by varying the length of the 11PM to 12AM “hour”. 59, 60, 61 minutes, who’s going to notice at that time of night.
We certainly have the technology to do it. Every mobile phone, smart watch, digital clock etc. has the smarts to do this.
Just a thought.