To DST or Not to DST

We sprang ahead. Are we on the correct time or ahead of time? The answer may surprise you. Time: According to records, Congress adopted Standard time on this day in […]
March 13, 2016

We sprang ahead. Are we on the correct time or ahead of time? The answer may surprise you.

Time: According to records, Congress adopted Standard time on this day in 1884. Standard time in time zones was established by U.S. law with the Standard Time Act of 1918.

For millennia, people have measured time based on the position of the sun; it was noon when the sun was highest in the sky. Sundials were used well into the Middle Ages, at which time mechanical clocks began to appear. Cities would set their town clock by measuring the position of the sun, but every city would be on a slightly different time.

The time indicated by the apparent sun on a sundial is called Apparent Solar Time, or true local time. The time shown by the fictitious sun is called Mean Solar Time, or local mean time when measured in terms of any longitudinal meridian.

The first man in the United States to sense the growing need for time standardization was an amateur astronomer, William Lambert, who as early as 1809 presented to Congress a recommendation for the establishment of time meridians. This was not adopted, nor was the initial suggestion of Charles Dowd of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1870. Dowd revised his proposal in 1872, and it was adopted virtually unchanged by U.S. and Canadian railways eleven years later.

The need for continental time zones stemmed directly from the problems of moving passengers and freight over the thousands of miles of rail line that covered North America by the 1880s. Since human beings had first begun keeping track of time, they set their clocks to the local movement of the sun. Even as late as the 1880s, most towns in the U.S. had their own local time, generally based on “high noon,” or the time when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. As railroads began to shrink the travel time between cities from days or months to mere hours, however, these local times became a scheduling nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times for the same train, each linked to a different local time zone.

Efficient rail transportation demanded a more uniform time-keeping system. Rather than turning to the federal governments of the United States and Canada to create a North American system of time zones, the powerful railroad companies took it upon themselves to create a new time code system. The companies agreed to divide the continent into four time zones; the dividing lines adopted were very close to the ones we still use today.

Most Americans and Canadians quickly embraced their new time zones, since railroads were often their lifeblood and main link with the rest of the world. However, it was not until 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Detroit kept local time until 1900, when the City Council decreed that clocks should be put back 28 minutes to Central Standard Time. Half the city obeyed, while half refused. After considerable debate, the decision was rescinded and the city reverted to sun time. A derisive offer to erect a sundial in front of the city hall was referred to the Committee on Sewers. Then, in 1905, Central Standard Time was adopted by city vote.

Pro/Con
Proponents of DST generally argue that it saves energy, promotes outdoor leisure activity in the evening (in summer), and is therefore good for physical and psychological health, reduces traffic accidents, reduces crime, or is good for business. Groups that tend to support DST are urban workers, retail businesses, outdoor sports enthusiasts and businesses, tourism operators, and others who benefit from increased light during the evening in summer.

Opponents argue that actual energy savings are inconclusive, that DST increases health risks such as heart attack, that DST can disrupt morning activities, and that the act of changing clocks twice a year is economically and socially disruptive and cancels out any benefit. Farmers have tended to oppose DST.

Health Risks:
DST has mixed effects on health. In societies with fixed work schedules it provides more afternoon sunlight for outdoor exercise. It alters sunlight exposure; whether this is beneficial depends on one’s location and daily schedule, as sunlight triggers vitamin D synthesis in the skin, but overexposure can lead to skin cancer. DST may help in depression by causing individuals to rise earlier, but some argue the reverse. The Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation Fighting Blindness, chaired by blind sports magnate Gordon Gund, successfully lobbied in 1985 and 2005 for US DST extensions.

Clock shifts were found to increase the risk of heart attack by 10 percent, and to disrupt sleep and reduce its efficiency. Effects on seasonal adaptation of the circadian rhythm can be severe and last for weeks.

A 2008 study found that although male suicide rates rise in the weeks after the spring transition, the relationship weakened greatly after adjusting for season.

A 2008 Swedish study found that heart attacks were significantly more common the first three weekdays after the spring transition, and significantly less common the first weekday after the autumn transition.

The government of Kazakhstan cited health complications due to clock shifts as a reason for abolishing DST in 2005.

In March 2011, Dmitri Medvedev, president of Russia, claimed that “stress of changing clocks” was the motivation for Russia to stay in DST all year long. Officials at the time talked about an annual increase in suicides.

An unexpected adverse effect of daylight saving time may lie in the fact that an extra part of morning rush hour traffic occurs before dawn and traffic emissions then cause higher air pollution than during daylight hours.

Answer: We are ahead of standard time.

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Kenny

Christian. American. Father. Husband. Friend. Brother. Son. Grandson. Uncle. Cubs Fan. Digital.

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