This weekend is that glorious time of year when those of us that observe Daylight Saving (DST) Time get to recover the hour of sleep that was taken from us back in April. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, the clocks move back one hour, ending DST for 2013.
Why do we go through this twice a year, though, shifting the clocks forward for the summer and then back again for the winter, and why do some places observe it, but others don't?
There's a little bit of 'science' behind the whole thing, of course. The Earth's axis is tilted by roughly 23 degrees, so our hemisphere is tilted more towards the sun during the summer, and more away from the sun in the winter. That means that the sun spends more time above the horizon in the summer, making the days longer, and less time above the horizon in the winter, making the days shorter. Since we 'centre' our work-day roughly in the middle of the day, by setting clocks ahead by an hour towards summer, everyone gets up earlier and the extra daylight we get is 'shifted' to the end of the day, when we can typically make better use of it.
[ Related: Five weird effects of Daylight Saving Time ]
You may have heard that it was Benjamin Franklin who first suggested Daylight Saving Time. However, his 1784 letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris was an elaborate and exquisite example of sarcasm to complain about the Parisian party life he had witnessed while he was there. The true architects of Daylight Saving Time were George Vernon Hudson and William Willett, who both independently came up with the idea of shifting the clocks around the turn of the 20th century. DST wasn't actually put into effect, though, until World War I. It was also discontinued and started up again several times throughout the years since then. Modern DST started in the 1970s, during the energy crisis, and although it's undergone a few changes over the years, it's been used ever since.
Here in Canada, all provinces and territories observe Daylight Saving Time except Saskatchewan, and there are communities scattered about that don't make the change either. This is because all of these areas have been included in one time zone, but are much more suited to being in a different one. For example: Saskatchewan is in the Central Time Zone, but geographically, it's far more suited to be in Mountain Time. So, the province is already, technically, an hour ahead and permanently on DST.
[ More Geekquinox: Weird Science Weekly: Comet ISON looking ‘downright weird’ as it approaches the sun ]
There are plenty of arguments for and against using DST. The main reasons for it are having more daylight at the end of the day in the summer for activities and the potential energy savings, since we should use less electricity for lighting late in the day. As far as the arguments against, studies have shown that the electricity savings are minimal and we may even use more energy because of it. Automobile accidents dramatically increase on the days just after the switch. Also, it messes up our circadian rhythms, with some people completely unable to adjust to it, causing health issues and maybe even an increased chance of heart attack.
Some have proposed ending DST permanently, or possibly even keeping it permanently and simply adjusting what time of the day we start work. With our more 'global' society, with more people putting in longer hours at work these days, or starting earlier in the morning so they can leave work earlier, these might be good suggestions. What do you think of Daylight Saving Time? Leave your opinion in the comment section below.
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Geek out with the latest in science and weather.
Follow @ygeekquinox on Twitter!