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Daylight Savings
Bar Harbor
...happens this weekend. In the US, anyway. Australian daylight savings happened last week, moving us from 8 hours out of synch to 9. Next week, it'll be up to 10. Scheduling conference calls has become a lose-lose situation. Ah, the joys of international development.

Why do we have daylight savings time, anyways? I've never heard an explanation that struck me as remotely rational...

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I think it was supposed to be an energy-saving mechanism. You'd turn the lights on in the house later in the day if it was still bright outside. Oddly, I couldn't find anything on the Straight Dope about it.

Doesn't wash. You turn on lights when it's dark, no matter what the clock says.

I've heard a few rationalities. Most of them center around having more light in the evening to play with, or less in the morning to wake you up. (Who wants sunrise at 4 am when you have to sleep until 7?)

The "saves electricity" argument does work. You turn your lights on when it's dark, no matter what the clock says. However, you go to sleep at the same *hour*, no matter what the lighting situation is, because you (generically) have to be at work at 9 am the next morning. If fewer of those evening hours need to be lit, you save energy.

One interesting link:

So, why don't we just stay on this "Daylight Saving Time" thing year round? It doesn't seem from that site like it would *lose* us anything during the winter months, and it would be hella simpler.

My favorite quotes from the site:

"I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves." (Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, 1947, XIX, Sunday.)

"When questioned as to why he didn't simply get up an hour earlier, Willett replied with typical British humor, "What?" "

I believe that it's because that would mean many more people would be driving in darkness in the winter, leading to accidents (groggy drivers are bad drivers, and in fact the day after DST starts has a significant accident increase), children waiting at bus stops in the dark, etc.

I find it nearly impossible to stay in bed after the sun has risen. I have to get to bed earlier in the summer, because the sun will get me up earlier. So it's a real issue for some.

No, no. If you always go to sleep at 10pm, and it gets dark at 5pm, then that's 5 hours of electricity use. But if it gets dark at 6pm, that's only 4 hours of electricity use.

So the idea, I think, was to "take" daylight from before the time most people gets up, when it's going to waste, and put it when folks will use it. Hence the savings.

I'm sure there must be somewhere on the web that talks about it. At any rate, whatever the rationale, my bet is that it was invented during the energy crisis.

No, it predates the energy crisis by quite a while. I think it dates back to one of the World Wars.

There's a lot of history about it at

The idea was first conceived by Ben Franklin, and its practical use pretty much stems from around World War I, in Britain before the U.S.

-- Russ Kay (

My favourite bad argument for daylight savings time came during the congressional debate to expand daylight savings time in the 80s. One congress critter argued on the floor of the house that it was important to expand daylight saving earlier into the spring to give farmers an extra hour of daylight to plant. It kind of explains some of our laws to know that that's what passes for reason in the people that make them.

Farmers don't follow any clocks, so since the time change actually doesn't create any time, it doesn't affect farmers at all.
It's not like farmers are sleeping through daylight ...
And planting only lasts a very very short time.

It does affect them a little, from what I've heard. Say you've got dairy cows or egg-laying chickens. Your middleman picks up your production for the day at 9am -- he doesn't change it to make it the same absolute time. So you have to get the milking or the egg collecting or whatever done to meet the clock time, even if the animals don't use clocks.

(Deleted comment)
Thank you!!! That was a delightful essay!

I also note, that nowhere in it does he actually suggest anything like the current DST -- his actual proposal is to just force people to get up early.

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