Monday, March 4, 2013

Does anybody really know what time it is?



For the better part of the last century the concept of daylight savings has plagues our internal clocks and unsettled our precious hours of sleep for the convenience of a few extra hours of daylight at either the end of the day or in the beginning. 

The entire concept of saving daylight is ludicrous on its face, thinking that by simply changing the hands of the clock we have successfully altered the process of the sun.  Perhaps there is some unspoken magic at work that when a majority of clocks are thus changed in concert the sun is obligated to amend its orbits in order to allow more sun or less sun depending on the motivations of the mystical fingers that switch the time.

Many believe that Benjamin Franklin was the father of this idea and in fact he did allude to the benefits of proper time management thought his statement “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.”  This 1784 satire was actually a call for greater taxes, proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise.  It was not a call to actually change the time or alter the time pieces.  That distinction came from a New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson, who proposed a two hour time saving shift that would allow him to collect more bugs after work.

A few other notables attempted to alter father time but all failed; the success came only after the early devastation of World War I in an effort to save the burning of precious coal, it was instituted as a law in 1916 in Great Britain with some European countries following in 1917 and the US in 1918.  Most of these efforts were mostly abandoned after the war and life returned to normal that is until another major crisis, World War II, when it was widely used again to help conserve fuels and maximize work days.

In the 1970’s during the energy crisis it was once again adopted and has continued mostly uninterrupted sense then but mostly within western civilizations and again as an excuse to help maximize production, savings of fossil fuels etc…

The process of trying to save time falls into the category of trying to catch up on lost sleep.  One can get more sleep but catching up on lost opportunities to sleep are gone forever as is the issue with time.  Once it passes it’s gone and it can never be recovered.  Time may be relative but not in the case of daylight savings.

 Relativity of simultaneity: Two events, simultaneous for one observer, may not be simultaneous for another observer if the observers are in relative motion, does not generally include sleep.

Time dilation: Moving clocks are measured to tick more slowly than an observer's "stationary" clock. Does that mean that runners watches move more slowly?

Length contraction: Objects are measured to be shortened in the direction that they are moving with respect to the observer.  I would think this one obvious, the closer I move toward an object the shorter the distance it is to that object.  I wish it was that easy to understand.

Mass–energy equivalence: E = mc2, energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable.  Mass and energy should be equal in nature and should be able to be converted one to the other and back again, like the transporter on the Enterprise. 

 Maximum speed is finite: No physical object, message or field line can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.  A vacuum bottle with a candle in it travels fast?

These theories help us to understand that simply moving the hands on a clock or altering the readout on our computers do nothing to alter the real state of time.  Now, if as a world, everyone were to pick up their time pieces and hurl them into space those clocks may show a slight micro variance in relation to clocks left stationary but those differences would be so minute that any saving resulted would be lost in trying to figure out how it happened.

The real issue is not in applying daylight savings strategies but in educating the population to either get up earlier or stay up later depending on their individual needs.  Because we are a society bent on obeying the clock we are forced to change the clock in order to bend our ways toward more efficiency.   

One good example occurred during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  In order to reduce the flow of traffic during normal rush our times.  The population of the area and the employers were encouraged to alter the starting time and ending time of the work day, to stagger the hours allowing some to arrive an hour or two hours later to work.  This had a dramatic effect on the ever present traffic grid making travel to the Olympic venues open and painless; even the workers whose times had been changed liked the openness of the freeways, less stress,  more productivity etc…why did we stop what worked, I think the clock got in the way.

The Entire LA basin, nearly 8 million altered their time willingly and enjoyed the benefits of cooperative time management without institutional daylight savings.  This is a plan that could work across the board and without the need to continually change our sleep, alter our clocks or try to trick the sun into giving us more light, that would be a good trick.

Springing forward is a killer, just when we get used to seeing the sun when we arise that same sun will be taken away, plunging us all back into the darkness and depression of rising before the rooster crows, at least they’re not duped and I thought I was smarter than a chicken?

But just in case the time revolution fails…March 10th 2:00 am…uuugh, remember you have to get up at 2 am to set your clock or it won’t work …..