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Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Why Daylight Saving Time Should Be Abolished

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clocksIt's that time of year in the U.S. when clocks "fall back" from Daylight Saving Time to standard time. What does that mean? Well, you get back the hour of sleep you lost last spring and you can look forward to a week or so of feeling discombobulated.

The railroads were the first to set the time in the 19th century, coordinating distant clocks so that trains could run on theoretically precise timetables (this cut down on crashes.). You can also thank railroads for time zones—geographic swaths of the globe set to the same hour.

But it was evening-time activists like entomologist George Vernon Hudson and golfer William Willett who can be blamed for Daylight Saving Time. Noting that a little extra well-lit time on a balmy evening would be nicer than in the morning when everybody's asleep anyway, the two independently proposed shifting clocks forward for the spring and summer. Governments soon seized upon the idea as a way to cut down on energy use — more sunlight in the evening means less coal-burned to provide artificial alternatives.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to hold up too well. And changing back and forth to Daylight Saving Time twice a year seems to be bad for human health — from increased risk of heart attack to more mine accidents. Nevertheless, in 2007, the U.S. Congress saw fit to extend Daylight Saving Time's reign from earlier in spring to deeper into fall in 2007.

It would make more sense to either scrap Daylight Saving Time or turn it into standard time—in effect, make it permanent. But since when have we been sensible about time management?

Image: © iStockphoto.com / GarysFRP

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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