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Did Benjamin Franklin Invent Daylight Saving Time? 395

An anonymous reader writes "While living in Paris, Ben Franklin was struck by how many hours of daylight were being wasted to sleep during the summer months. He wrote an open letter to a Parisian journal lamenting the wasted expenditures on candlewax, and presented his back-of-the-quillpad estimates of the cost savings if the entire population arose an hour or two earlier. However, Franklin did not specifically mention moving the clocks ahead; instead, he suggested official means for enforcement (rationing the sale of candlewax to families) and encouragement (ringing church bells at sunrise). The clock-shifting technique which we know and love was credited to the New Zealander George Vernon Hudson, who proposed it in 1895. DST was first widely adopted by warring countries during World War I as a way of conserving coal needed for military purposes. This launched a debate over DST's usefulness that continues to the present day (particularly by people stumbling about in their bathrooms). Of course, Franklin is also associated with other questionable ideas, including bifocals, lightning rods, electric current flowing from the positive to negative terminal, leaking official documents to fan opposition, and an independent United States of America." New research suggests the daylight saving time change will lead to lower productivity tomorrow as the lost sleep makes workers more likely to slack (PDF).
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Did Benjamin Franklin Invent Daylight Saving Time?

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  • DST is good. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:36PM (#39321381)

    I like going home after work and still having daylight. I can go out for a run, have a picnic, and not be fearful of vampires.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:37PM (#39321387)

    I always await DST with bated breath every year.

    And I rue its passing every fall

    We are so far east in the Eastern time zone, which goes all the way from Western Indiana to Maine, that we should actually be in the Atlantic time zone with the Canadian Maritime provinces.


  • CGP Grey (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gideon Wells ( 1412675 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:49PM (#39321521)

    C.G.P. Grey did a swell video on this subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84aWtseb2-4 [youtube.com]

    Frankly, the system as is a chaotic mess. I find myself more and more often tempted to state HH:MM p/a GMT. It just seems like something that was good in theory about two hundred years ago, but now? Confusion. There is a reason standard time for trains considered such a great advance. DST now seems like a step backwards.

  • Re:When? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:13PM (#39321705) Journal

    But so would keeping "summer hours" at various businesses. 9-5 in the winter? 8-4 in the summer! See how easy that is? No need to take something that has a real, astronomical meaning, and fiddle with it completely arbitrarily for no real benefit at all.

    In fact, the greatest benefit we could get would probably be to encourage businesses to vary their working times to spread out the "rush hour" traffic. This would reduce congestion on the roads (it's not strictly linear, so even a small change could reap huge rewards), a net win for both commuters and the environment. I know that an extra half hour of real time at each end of the day spent "not commuting" would be more valuable to me than 20 "extra" hours of daylight that we got by shifting our troubles by the same amount.

  • DST Graph (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pgn674 ( 995941 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:45PM (#39321921) Homepage

    If you want a visual explanation of the purpose and result of daylight saving time, check out this graph: Picasa Web Albums - Paul Nickerson [google.com]

    The purpose, as I understand it, is to make the sun not rise super early against the clock during the summer. The effect is that it reduces the range of sunrise times, while increasing the range of sunset times. In a way, it normalizes sunrises while amplifying sunsets.

    Oh, and while we're at it, during a non-DST period, if the time zones were evenly split and straight with no regard to human geographic borders, then at the middle of the time zone, 12:00 (noon) would be the time that astronomical noon is (when the sun is highest in the sky), varying by about 20 minutes before and after noon. If you average all the astronomical noons over the course of a year in the middle of a time zone, then astronomical noon is at precisely 12:00. During DST, astronomical noon is moved to 1:00 pm (13:00)

  • Re:When? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:00PM (#39322033)
    When the President of the United States publicly defends DST as saving energy due to reduced lighting (from coal, something we have enough of and don't import), while the truth is more energy is spend under DST (mostly oil, which we mostly import), I have to wonder if DST isn't just a oil company conspiracy. Energy use is increased, as people are more likely to take an evening shopping trip under DST. And the economic stimulus of more unfunded spending is exactly what we need more of, right?
  • Singapore (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skribe ( 26534 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:05PM (#39322065) Homepage
    Singaporeans liked the concept of Daylight Saving so much that in 1982 they moved to it permanently. Geographically they should be UTC+7 but they currently work off UTC+8.

    </ useless trivia >
  • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:16PM (#39322137)

    As the summary mentions, Ben's argument was basically that "early to bed and early to rise" saved energy.

    Yes, but note that while he's saying go to bed early, he also admits to not getting home and to bed until 3AM and notes that he never sees the sun before noon. If anything, I like him more after reading that bit.

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:26PM (#39322567)

    While it may be a bit extreme, I think the ideal solution is to start the workday a couple hours past sunrise in the winter and a couple hours before sunrise in the summer. You'll be active during the warmest hours of winter and cooler hours in summer, you'll have free time during daylight hours year round,

    No you would be cooped up in an office during the warmest hours of winter and the cooler hours in summer. All your free time would be during the hottest hours of summer and the coldest hours of winter. That sounds like a good way for office buildings to save heating/cooling expenses, but would increase residential expenses, and make it less enjoyable to spend your free time outside.

    For someone in the warmer latitudes, what I would like to see is the opposite. Leave winter hours as they are, and then shift the clock an hour later in the summer. That way you spend the hottest hours in the office, it will have cooled off by the time you are getting ready for bed, and you have time in the morning when it is cooler to spend outside before going to work.

  • Re:Singapore (Score:4, Interesting)

    by isorox ( 205688 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:28PM (#39322581) Homepage Journal

    Singaporeans liked the concept of Daylight Saving so much that in 1982 they moved to it permanently. Geographically they should be UTC+7 but they currently work off UTC+8.

    </ useless trivia >

    I can sort of see the justification for daylight "saving" nearer the poles, but for equatorial countries where the length of day varies by about 10 minutes it makes no sense. Pick a time and stick with it.

    There's plenty of anomalies with time zones. In December, Moscow was 2 hours ahead of Israel despite being pretty much the same longitude. Spain is 1 hour ahead of the UK despite parts of it geographically fitting into UK-1.

    Gaza has 2 spring forwards and 2 fall backs a year. At some points in the year, Israel, 1000 miles east of greece, is an hour behind.

    And now we've got a confusing situation of New York being 4 hours behind London, rather than 5. Due to travel (in the u.s this weekend, back in the uk af the end of the month) I get to have my clocks go forward twice this year, and last year I missed out on the benefit of clocks going backwards as I was somewhere out east -- Israel or India or somewhere (you know you travel too much when you can't remember what countries you've been to in a given year).

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @04:08AM (#39323927) Homepage

    Each to his own, I found it a quite enjoyable break. Something appealing about going home at the crack of dawn.

    Let's be real, no one invented daylights savings, clocks un-invented it. We all did it quite normally prior to the interference of, clocks and other peoples greed and demands.

    Just look at all the productivity gains over the last fifty years, where did it all go, not shared around at all, most of it went to feed the greed of a psychopathic minority. Reality is we should already be down to a 4 day 6 hour per day week but the greedy are never ever satiated, no matter how much they have and more importantly how little the rest of us have.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll