Once upon a time, there was no time at least as we reckon it.
All the increments we use to measure time, such as seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, came into being gradually as various civilizations devised ways to organize their lives.
Time, and the way we look at it, changes over time. One of the ways we tinkered with time in the 20th century was the adoption of daylight-saving time the whole "spring ahead, fall back" thing, when we move our clocks ahead or back an hour, based on the rationale that we save energy by having more daylight at the end of the day.
First adopted in 1967 in the United States, DST kicked in at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in April. Clocks went back to standard time at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October.
Since then, various changes have come along. In 1972, a congressional amendment allowed some areas to be exempt from DST, including Arizona, Hawaii, parts of Indiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa. There have been times when we stayed on daylight-saving time all year 'round or changed the beginning and ending in other ways. Since 1986, the April/October formula has remained intact until this year.
Last fall Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which changed the beginning of DST to the second Sunday in March and the end to the first Sunday in November. The secretary of energy is required to track and report the impact of this change, and then Congress will decide whether energy savings are significant enough to keep the new schedule or revert to the old.In honor of Sunday morning's shift, here are some bits and pieces of history, lore and trivia dealing with the whole idea of time and daylight-saving time, in particular.
All about Franklin's idea
The idea of taking an hour off one end of the day and adding it to the other daylight-saving time was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin while he was serving as an American delegate in Paris. In an essay titled "An Economical Project," he discussed the thrift of natural versus artificial lighting and noted that if the Parisians shifted time correctly they could save enormous amounts of tallow and wax used for candles.
Franklin was 78 at the time, and wrote the essay somewhat in jest. But some of his friends, who had invented a new kind of oil lamp, were quite taken with the idea.The first person to advocate the idea seriously was a London builder named William Willett, who in 1907, wrote a pamphlet called "Waste of Time." In it he noted, "everyone appreciates the long, light evenings. Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used."
What's in a name
First off, you should know the official name is daylight-saving time, without the plural "s," although you'll hear a lot of people call it daylight-savings time maybe because it's easier to say or seems to flow more smoothly. But, if you want to get grammatical, the word "saving" is used as a verbal adjective or participle, modifying the word "time," similar to a "saving grace" rather than a "savings account."Some people think the name should actually be daylight-shifting time, since that is what really happens to the clock.
From time immemorial, people have measured time based on the sun or the moon. The earliest of cultures noticed the waxing and waning of the moon in regular cycles. They also saw the sun moving across the sky perhaps on the back of a turtle, maybe driven by a chariot and began to reckon time based on its position. It was noon when the sun was highest in the sky, separating morning from afternoon. Days were longer or shorter, based on the sun's position in the sky.
The Babylonians were the first to divide the path of the sun into the 12 equal parts that we now call hours. They were also the ones who divided the circle into 360 parts called degrees, which were later divided into 60 minutes.
Primitive sundials were used to track the movement of the sun well into the Middle Ages, when mechanical clocks came along. As more sophisticated ways of measuring time developed, minutes were divided into seconds and seconds into tenths and hundredths and thousandths.What is the value of a hundredth of a second? Ask almost any Olympic athlete.
Before there could be a shift in time, there had to be something to shift it from. Credit the railroads for being the first to care or at least, for caring the most if time was the same in different places. Credit Britain's railroads for being the first to adopt the standard. The Great Western Railway took on what was then known as London Time in 1840, and other railway lines soon followed.
In the United States, standard time was adopted by the railroads in 1883.
Before those measures, time was mostly a local thing. Most cities and towns kept time by means of a well-known, fairly accurate clock, such as one found in a church steeple or a jeweler's window, but time could vary from town to town, anywhere from a few minutes to as much as a half-hour or more.Even after railroads adopted a standard time, however, not everyone used it in their everyday lives. Not until increased needs of transportation and communication made it advantageous, did the country move to uniform time zones. Congress passed the Standard Time Act in 1918, officially adopting the time zones established by the railroads. The responsibility of maintaining and/or changing them was first given to the Interstate Commerce Commission and later to the Department of Transportation.
It's 5 o'clock somewhere
At the Washington Meridian Conference of 1884, world leaders and scientists agreed to divide the map into 24 standard time zones, based on 15 degrees longitude and 60-minute intervals and thus accounting for each of the 24 hours in the day.
This also created the International Date Line, a zigzagging line at approximately the 180th meridian, where calendar days are separated.So, if you are going from Salt Lake City to Tokyo, say, and leave on a Sunday morning, since you go west, the time is pushed back as you pass through time zones, but when you cross the International Date Line, it suddenly becomes Monday. Coming home, you can leave on a Monday morning and time gets later and later as you cross time zones, until you cross the International Date Line and it becomes Sunday again. Confusing? No wonder you get jet lag.
What does it mean?
The starting point for measuring modern time is Greenwich Meridian Longitude 0 which runs through the town of Greenwich in England, a few miles upriver from London. Every place has a latitude based on its distance from Greenwich and a time that is measured relative to Greenwich Mean Time.
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich was established by King Charles II in the mid-1600s for the purpose of "the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation." Among the astronomers who worked there was Edmund Halley, who lent his name to the famous comet.
A ball on the roof of the observatory was erected in 1833 , and became a popular public time signal. At five minutes to 1 p.m., the ball still rises halfway up a pole, reaching the top at two minutes to 1. The ball drops at exactly 1 p.m. Because it is clearly visible to ships on the nearby Thames River, ships have used the signal to check their time.In 1972, Universal Time replaced Greenwich Mean Time as the time reference for the scientific community. UT is taken from an atomic clock.
Does it do any good?
The rationale behind daylight-saving time is to make better use of daylight. Not only does it give more time for leisure activities, the theory is that it saves energy by cutting the need for electric lights and other uses of electricity.
Demand for electricity for lighting homes has been shown to be directly related to the times when people go to bed at night and get up in the morning. In the average home, 25 percent of electricity is used for lighting and such things as TVs and stereos.
People also tend to plan more outdoor activities that take them away from home. They not only cut electricity because they are not home to turn on lights and TV sets, but also enjoy the extra hours of daylight in recreational activities.
Studies done by the Department of Transportation show that daylight-saving time does indeed trim the country's electricity usage by a small, but significant, amount a total of about one percent each day.In addition, several studies in the United States and Great Britain have found that DST shift cuts traffic accidents and fatalities by close to one percent. True, there are more accidents in the mornings, but that is offset by the decrease in evening accidents.
Around the world
Approximately 70 countries use some form of daylight-saving time or Summer Time, as it is called in some places. India and Japan are major industrialized countries that do not shift the clock in the summer. China, which adopted a single time zone in 1980, did observe DST from 1986 to 1991 but doesn't do it now.Most countries situated on the equator also don't observe DST since daylight and evening hours are similar all year round, and there is no advantage in changing the clock.
Not every one likes it
DST has both fans and critics. Among the reasons cited by those who don't like it are:
The hassles of changing clocks and adjusting to a new sleep schedule.
If you live in a warm climate, you might be spending more to cool your home during summer evenings, thus offsetting energy savings.
More daylight may mean more use of automobiles, and thus more consumption of gasoline.
If your work is tied to sunrise (such as it is for farmers), you still have to "go to work with the chickens."
Getting children to go to sleep when it's still light outside can be hard.
Children often have to go to school in the dark.
It's not nice to mess around with Mother Nature or your internal time clock.In "The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks," published in 1947, writer Robertson Davies put forth this critique of DST: "I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it."
Sources: www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving; "Man & Time," by J.B. Priestly (Crescent Books); "The Handy Science Answer Book," compiled by the science and technology department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; "Calendar," by David Ewing Duncan (Avon Books).
A timeline of time
A few of the important dates in the history of time:
3500 B.C. A stick pushed in the ground and called a gnomon was the first primitive way of measuring time by the length of a shadow.
1500 B.C. The oldest sundials discovered (in Egypt) date from about this time.
738 B.C. King Romulus of Rome instituted a calendar with 10 months to the year. Two additional months were added in 713 B.C.
160 B.C. The Romans divided the day into five marked periods.
860 A.D. Candle lantern "clocks" were used by Anglo-Saxon King Alfred of Wessex in England. The Saxons later divided the day into periods called "tides." Each was equal to about three of our hours.
900 A.D. Sand began to replace water in time-measuring devices. Hence, the hourglass.
977 A.D. In China, Chang Ssu-Hsun constructed what was probably the first astronomical water clock.
1300 A.D. The first clock to strike hours was erected in Milan, Italy. The oldest surviving striking clock, built around 1305, is in Salisbury Cathedral in England.
1520 A.D. Clocks with the capability of showing minutes and seconds were built.
1752 A.D. Great Britain (and its American colonies) adopted the Gregorian calendar.
1843 A.D. The first electric pendulum clock was invented by Alexander Bain.
1883 A.D. U.S. time zones were established.
1905 A.D. Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity, giving time a whole new dimension.
1906 A.D. The first self-contained battery-driven clock was developed.
1916 A.D. Germany was the first country to adopt a system of Daylight Saving Time. Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey and Tasmania immediately followed suit. Britain jumped on board three weeks later. It was not formally adopted in the U.S. until 1918.
Time is measured in many ways, both scientific and non-scientific. Here are some of the daily expressions we use to discuss time:
Twilight: The first soft glow of evening, when the sun has dipped below the horizon, but is still at an angle that allows for some light. Areas with mountains tend to have a longer period of twilight, and the sun goes down behind them.
Daybreak: The first appearance of the sun.
Dawn: A gradual increase of sunlight.
Noon: The point of time when the sun is highest in the sky, and when morning becomes afternoon.
Dusk: The gradual decrease of sunlight.
Sunset: The last glow of sun as it sinks below the horizon, perhaps turning clouds pink or gold.
Evening: Can mean a lot of things, but is often associated with the period between sunset and bedtime.
Night: The period of darkness, lasting from sunset to dawn.
The time it takes
The actual time it takes the earth to complete one rotation around the sun: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds.
The time the year has slowed since 1 A.D. : 10 secondsAverage decrease in the year due to a gradual slowing of the earth's rotation: 1/2 second per century.
Thinking about time
Don't keep saying, "I don't know where the time goes." It goes the same place it's always gone and no one has ever known where that is. Andy Rooney
Time heals what reason cannot. Seneca
Our costliest expenditure is time. Theophrastus
Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish it is an imponderably valuable gift. Maya Angejou
Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. Nathaniel Hawthorne
Most of the methods for measuring the lapse of time have, I believe, been the contrivance of monks and religious recluses, who, finding time hang heavy on their hands, were at some pains to see how they got rid of it. William Hazlitt
Time is but the shadow of the world upon the background of Eternity. Jerome K. Jerome
Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity. La Bruyere
Time heals griefs and quarrels for we change and are no longer the same person. Pascal
Time bears away all things, even the mind. Vergil
Time moves slowly, but passes quickly. Alice Walker
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