This past weekend we turned our clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time (DST). The good news: we get an extra hour of sunlight! The bad news: we lost an hour of sleep. Daylight Saving Time is the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight. This week on How Do You Science? we will be exploring the fact and fiction of Daylight Savings Time.
The ability to tell time originated hundreds of years ago with the nomadic prehistoric man. By observing the stars, moon phases and the changes in season they came up with a very primitive method of measuring time. The earliest time measurement devices before clocks and watches were the sundial, hourglass and water clock (1500-1300 B.C.). Progressing from mechanical, to pendulum, to the styles seen on wrists, watches have had a long journey.
Having created ways of telling time, the world marched steadily on. However, for those living near the poles it became noticeable that there was less light in the evening. It was believed that the lack of light meant people were no longer being productive. Enter Daylight Savings Time.
DST has been a part of life in the United States since World War I. Many of us have heard that DST was developed because of farming, thinking that more daylight means more time in the field for farmers. As it turns out, famers are actually against DST. The lost hour of morning light meant farmers had to rush to get their crops to market. Dairy farmers were particularly flummoxed: Cows adjust to schedule shifts rather poorly.
DST, in this or any other country, was never adopted to benefit farmers. Then, how did farmers end up being the mythical source of DST? It is suggested that because they were such vocal opponents, they became associated with the image of daylight saving and it got inverted on them. It was just bad luck.
Today, less than 40% of the countries in the world use DST. Some countries use it to make better use of the natural daylight in the evenings. The difference in light is most noticeable in the areas close to the Poles (furthest away from the Earth's Equator). Some studies show that DST could lead to fewer road accidents and injuries by supplying more daylight during the hours more people use the roads.
DST is also used to reduce the amount of energy needed for artificial lighting during the evening hours. However, many studies disagree about DST's energy savings and while some studies show a positive outcome, others do not.
For more information on DST, check out this website.
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.