Okay, this will be my last blovi­a­tion on Daylight Saving Time.

Well, maybe not, depend­ing on what Congress decides to do about H.R. 69.

H.R. 69 is the bill intro­duced in the House of Representatives on January 4th last, a bill flow­ing from the U.S. Senate and labeled “A BILL To make day­light sav­ings [sic] time per­ma­nent, and for oth­er purposes.”

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.  This Act may be titled as the “Sunshine Protection Act of 2021”. (quo­ta­tion marks in original).

five assorted country wall clocks

It may be telling that this bill refers to day­light sav­ings time, which has nev­er been con­sid­ered the cor­rect phras­ing, and the word sav­ings is used twice in the bill. The bill that it pro­pos­es to repeal, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S.C.260a) nev­er refers to day­light sav­ings time, although it does make note in at least two instances of day­light sav­ing time.

A recent arti­cle in Science Alert extolling the alleged virtues of Daylight Saving Time posit­ed that lives would be saved by year-round DST because evening dark­ness is dead­lier than morn­ing dark­ness, that crime would decrease because of length­ened day­light hours (appar­ent­ly crooks are as stu­pid as every­one else in believ­ing that mov­ing the clock hands changes the way the length of day­light and dark­ness are made), that ener­gy would be saved (though some stud­ies have shown that ener­gy sav­ings are minus­cule), that avoid­ing clock switch­es improves sleep (true, but that’s unre­lat­ed to hours of day­light), and that “recre­ation and com­merce flour­ish in the sun” (prob­a­bly also true, but it beg­gars the real question).

But despite all these mis­con­cep­tions about the virtues of per­ma­nent DST – and the appar­ent inabil­i­ty of some mem­bers of Congress to cor­rect­ly label their bills – the real prob­lem with con­tin­u­al­ly refer­ring to day­light sav­ing time (or day­light sav­ings time) is that it reveals a com­plete lack of under­stand­ing about how the total­ly arti­fi­cial method of describ­ing time has absolute­ly noth­ing to do with the ways in which mankind actu­al­ly relates to time.

It makes not a bird­whis­tle of dif­fer­ence whether we (here in Kentucky, for pur­pos­es of con­ver­sa­tion) must be at work at eight o’clock a.m. or eight o’clock p.m. (and it would be far, far more log­i­cal if every­one would begin using the twen­ty-four-hour method of des­ig­nat­ing time than this archa­ic ante meri­diem and post meri­diem) sim­ply because any­one can des­ig­nate a time on the clock to mean anything. 

For instance, if I nor­mal­ly get up at 0630 (now’s as good a time as any to learn the 24-hour sys­tem) in order to get to work at 0800, and I set my clock so that it shows 1100, it doesn’t mat­ter if I have already estab­lished the hour time for my day.  I will still make it to work an hour and a half lat­er and my boss won’t even have to know that my watch isn’t show­ing the same time as his.  And the hours of day­light will be the same as they were the day before when my watch was set the same as every­one else’s.

But the real, real prob­lem with per­ma­nent DST is that it com­plete­ly, total­ly, irrev­o­ca­bly, irre­triev­ably (there are adverbs ad infini­tum that could be placed here) ignores the glob­al impli­ca­tions of timekeeping.

It has long been an accept­ed accom­mo­da­tion that every 15 degrees of lon­gi­tude rep­re­sent about 1,000 miles (at the equa­tor), 1/24th of the earth’s cir­cum­fer­ence, and one hour.  Since the estab­lish­ment of Greenwich as the Prime Meridien, it has gen­er­al­ly been accept­ed that 7−1÷2 degrees on either side of that lon­gi­tude would encom­pass the same hour, so if it is 0000 hours at Greenwich and 7−1÷2 degrees west, each addi­tion­al 15-degree time zone west would be one hour earlier. 

The cur­rent Eastern time zone should begin at lon­gi­tude 67.5 degrees west and run to 82.5 degrees west.  Oddly, most of Kentucky has been tra­di­tion­al­ly includ­ed in the Eastern Time Zone, but the 82.5‑degree line runs through Martin and Pike County so, log­i­cal­ly, all of Kentucky west of Pikeville should be in the Central Time Zone which includes ter­ri­to­ry all the way to just west of Topeka, Kansas.  Winchester lies in lon­gi­tude 84°10’ (plus and minus).

One hour time zones aren’t per­fect, but there is a four-minute dif­fer­ence in time for each degree of lon­gi­tude and it would be fol­ly to try to estab­lish 360 time zones, each four min­utes apart, and expect that mod­ern civ­i­liza­tion would func­tion effec­tive­ly thus­ly because our modes of trav­el and means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are too swift to deal with such minus­cule time differences.

Here’s the crux of the mat­ter.  We must quit think­ing in terms of DST and “stan­dard” time, and instead think about set­ting our time zones to more close­ly approx­i­mate the rota­tion of the earth as it relates to hours of day­light and dark­ness, and how the sea­sons affect those hours.

In the long run, it would be so much more log­i­cal and prac­ti­cal if the whole world oper­at­ed on “Zulu” time, which air­lines already do and which sim­ply des­ig­nates Greenwich Mean Time.

In Kentucky — if placed in its prop­er time zone — some­one who went to work at the old time of 0800 would be going to work at 1400 Zulu.

Simple, huh?

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.