Sunday, March 11, 2007

Europe and the U.S. are a bit closer this morning...

This morning, time leaped forward for Americans as the shift to Daylight Saving time was moved to three weeks earlier than in past years (from the first Sunday of April to the second Sunday in March), as a result of the 2005 Energy Policy which also extends daylight saving in the fall (CNN).

Apparently, while this change does not get so much attention, it has the computer industry a bit nervous as most computers were programmed to believe that daylight-saving time begins the first Sunday in April and ends the final Sunday in October (this is mostly the case in complex networks with a range of newer and older equipment).

Anyway, as a result, until Europe also changes to what is called “summertime” in Europe (in the last week-end of March), the U.S. and France are only 5 hours away.

Beginning in 2007, most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November. In the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time.

In the European Union, Summer Time begins and ends at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time). It begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October. In the EU, all time zones change at the same moment. (here)

This expansion of Daylight Saving time in the U.S. is a reminder how time which we take for granted is actually not “real” and somewhat political. Time can easily be changed by a government and indeed, if the US continues to expand daylight saving time, we’ll end up with a year-round daylight time, which will amount to a change of time zone.

A couple of other points worth making:

The main idea behind the time shift has been to save fuel of course (the assumption is that more people are up in the evening than in the early morning). But there seems to be unexpected consequences as well:

  • a drop in crime rates:

A federal study of expanding daylight time in the '70s found a drop in crime in the District of about 10 percent when daylight time is in effect.

  • A reduction in car crashes (which tends to happen more after dark).

More trivial points:

  • About 70 countries around the world observe daylight-saving time.
  • Neither China nor Japan observes daylight-saving time.
  • The extension of Daylight Saving Time into November in 2007 has been proposed as a way to encourage greater voter participation, the theory being that more people would go to the polls if it was still light when they returned home from work.
  • As we mentioned two years ago, in some ways, the this Daylight Saving is a
    Franco-American idea - it was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin (portrait at right) during his sojourn as an American delegate in Paris in 1784, in an essay, "An Economical Project."
  • However it took a war and over a 100 years for his proposal to become reality:
Germany adopted daylight time during World War I to save fuel; the U.S. and Britain quickly matched the enemy's move.
  • Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Arizona.
  • The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.
Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Similar examples would be a mind expanding book or a man eating tiger. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account.
Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an 's') flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, but it is not as politically desirable.
  • Time change gets the terrorists confused!
In September 1999, the West Bank was on Daylight Saving Time while Israel had just switched back to standard time. West Bank terrorists prepared time bombs and smuggled them to their Israeli counterparts, who misunderstood the time on the bombs. As the bombs were being planted, they exploded—one hour too early—killing three terrorists instead of the intended victims—two bus loads of people. (source here)
For more interesting details on Daylight Saving Time, go to this site!


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