Imaginary Time Is Here Again

Categories: Government, Pet Peeve
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: 2013.03.09

(Disclaimer: When I started using the term “Imaginary Time” several years ago to refer to Daylight Saving Time, I had no idea it was a term related to quantum mechanics, with an entirely different meaning. So I offer my apologies to any quantum mechanics folks who might be reading this *.)

The way we measure time is mostly arbitrary except for a few astronomical events that are visible and measurable — the Earth’s rotation which causes day and night, the Earth’s revolutions around the sun which mark the years, and the Moon’s voyages around the Earth which mark the months. But the whole hours/minutes/seconds thing has really caught on; it’s a worldwide standard for everyone except the most primitive and isolated of tribes.

What there is NO agreement on is the usefulness of Daylight Saving Time (“Summer Time” in some places, like Great Britain). What is certain is that it doesn’t save any daylight. You’ll see the same amount of daylight no matter what your clock says. Changing clocks cannot possibly have any effect on the length of a day.

I know I’ve harped on this before, and I will probably keep harping on it once or twice a year until the farce ends.

I honestly don’t care about the trivial tasks of resetting clocks twice a year; it’s a simple matter of clicking a few buttons on a few devices — and several devices update automatically, including our computers, wireless telephones, and even the cable box. I don’t even care so much about the oft-lamented lost hour of sleep in Spring — many people lose more sleep than that on a regular basis due to more natural factors like babies crying, too much caffeine, or poor personal scheduling.

However, it does seem a little pointless to go through even that tiny effort for something so ridiculous and nearly archaic, especially when no solid benefit can be proved.

I use the word “archaic” as hyperbole to mean old and out of date.

The oft-cited reason for DST is “energy savings”, due to early studies about how long incandescent lights were left on and when they were turned off. Even when people still used incandescent lights, further studies showed that there were actually no energy savings. At the time, light bulbs were a noticeable percentage of residential electricity usage.

Today’s homes are now (or should be) lit by something other than incandescent bulbs. Many of us made the switch to CFL bulbs a few years ago, and currently some of us are switching to LED lighting or other forms of household light, all of which use significantly less electricity than old-style bulbs. More recent studies have shown that Americans use their indoor lights regardless of whether it’s day or night outside, and further: what makes the most difference in our electricity usage is appliances, especially ovens, air conditioners, heaters, and clothes dryers. These are run regardless of whether the sun is up or down. Most businesses have their lights on during business hours, regardless of the time change, and some businesses leave their lights on around the clock — again, regardless of the time change.

There are ZERO current studies that show any energy savings during daylight savings time. (If you find one published in the past 5-10 years, please let me know; I’d be curious as to how thorough it is.)

Another benefit cited is economic. Very narrow niches of the economy have seen increases in income due to extra evening daylight (sporting goods retailers, for example). However, this is offset by increased costs in other niches of the economy, such as prime-time TV and movie theaters, not to mention the unmeasurable cost in man-hours for changing clocks, reminding employees to change their personal clocks, and the time-clock glitches for hourly employees (I’ve been an hourly employee on the clock during the time change; believe me, it causes problems), train schedules, airline schedules, etc.

U.S. government studies in the 1970s initially found reductions in traffic fatalities and violent crimes that they attributed to Daylight Saving Time, but almost immediately the results were contradicted by further studies that showed otherwise. A very recent study (2009) has shown that workplace accidents rise sharply immediately after DST begins.

In my mind, there are only two sensible solutions: either (1) end DST altogether, or (2) set the clocks forward one hour and then never set them back again.

The second option provides for the extra hour of outdoor leisure time in the evenings that some people claim as a benefit of DST, and would extend that hour throughout the year. (Those who claim this as an advantage do not live where I do; in the summer, we’d like it to get dark earlier, so it won’t be so darn hot at bedtime. Also, it’s frustrating for it to still be light outside after 9 p.m. when you’re trying to put your toddler to sleep.)

Either option would stop the nonsense of changing the clocks twice a year, end all controversy about the effectiveness of DST, and end the losses directly caused by DST.

(* Ha. Ha. If any quantum mechanics folks ARE reading this; please leave a comment.)

  1. The oddest and most confusing thing about DST is that Arizona doesn’t participate, but the Navajo Nation, which is mostly within Arizona, does.

    When I become overlord, all clocks will be set and locked to standardized solar mean time at the exact conterminous center of my new supernation, the Central Unified National Territory (C.U.N.T.), and this unit of time will be named after me as “Dick Time.”

  2. Wil C. Fry says:

    Ah yes, my wife and I experienced the multiple time shift while driving through there a few years ago.

    Despite your high-larious terminology, I often think that might be better (having one time zone for the whole darn place).

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