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Last Edited By Krjb Donovan
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 07:55 PM GMT

Question

I was wondering would you please tell me: why do we have daylight savings?

Thanks

Answer

The basic idea is that since most people are up in the evening and abed in the morning, they can do more things during daylight hours if daylight lasts longer in the afternoon, and comes later in the morning. Depending upon what things they do, considerable energy savings can theoretically be realized by not having to provide lighting for as long in the evening, thanks to daylight lasting longer. (In a similar way, many schools and government 'services' are switching to a four-day week, particularly in the summer, to save maintenance and electrical costs on Friday.)

Of course, people who have to rise with the Sun, such as farmers, strongly opposed the idea when it was first proposed, but nowadays there are far fewer of them than city-dwellers, so they don't have the votes to do anything about it. But in the winter, when there aren't many daylight hours at mid and high latitudes, and more people have to get up before dawn when that comes an hour later than usual, daylight 'saving' is more generally despised, so just setting clocks an hour later all year, which might be easier to remember, is political dynamite.

It is interesting to note that the first person to suggest the idea, Benjamin Franklin, did so in a satirical essay, which he had no thought of anyone taking seriously (which they didn't, the essay having been written more than a century before anyone thought well of the idea). It was only in the early 1900's that the idea was strongly (and futilely) lobbied for, and it took decades before it was generally accepted.

You would probably enjoy reading more about this at http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/, which presents many interesting anecdotes and conundrums associated with the idea (e.g., the question of inheritance rights when one twin is born earlier than another, but the latter one has an earlier birth-time, because of a switch in time-keeping).

Courtney Seligman

Question

I was wondering would you please tell me: why do we have daylight savings?

Thanks

Answer

Hi Cameron, Actually most of us astronomers hate it as we have to wait that extra hour for it to get dark. I guess we still have it because of the mistaken belief that it saves energy (at least in the USA), and even that is questionable. So all I can tell you is that it is a political thing now, and I can point you to the history of Daylight Stupid Time at http://www.gazetteextra.com/daylightsaving_side030707.asp

You'll read that initially it was first a WW I creation, then it was carried into WW II, and so on. But us in astronomy, 95% of us wish it was eliminated permanently. If you ever find a way of eliminating it world-wide, please let us know. Clear Skies, Tom Whiting Erie, PA USA



Question

I was wondering would you please tell me: why do we have daylight savings?

Thanks

Answer

Cameron, This is an interesting question, IMHO. From what I have found online, it seems that it was originally proposed partly to enable people to enjoy more daylight in the summertime, for leisure purposes. BUT, it was actually made into law, in many countries, around the time of World War I, mostly in order to cut back on nighttime coal-burning. This was in order to save coal resources, for the war effort.

In recent years, as oil seems to be becoming more scarce, there have been movements in some countries to adjust Daylight Savings Time even more, to save oil.

This seems like more of an economics or history question than an astronomy question, but it's still interesting, so thank you for forcing me to think about this. Here are some websites you can look at.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_in_Australia#Daylight_saving_time http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEhelp/daylightsaving.html

I hope this is helpful. Keep Looking Up, -Ed

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