Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's about time

Across the pond English scientists are trying to decide whether the world needs to change to a new time standard to compensate for the wobble in Earth's rotation. As it stands, every few years the International Earth Rotation Service adds a "leap second" so that the time kept by atomic clocks and the time measured by Earth's rotation stay within a second of each other.

England's Royal Society is proposing a change to Coordinated Universal Time which would do away with the leap second but not everyone is convinced that this is the best idea. As it stands, this leap second can play havoc with computers, smart phones and GPS devices.

If the leap second is abolished, over the course of a few decades the difference between atomic time and earth's rotational time will be about a minute; and, over the course of a few centuries the two times will diverge by an hour. Of course none of us will be around when that happens so I don't know that I'm too concerned about the whole debate.

But, this exercise does point out that what we call time is not a universal constant - it's a man-made construct. And, what's more, the earth's slight wobble is yet another reminder that we aren't in control of our environment - no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that we are.

Now, while we are debating how to measure time, how about we get rid of standard time and stay on daylight savings time year round? We can change the name of DST to standard time and go merrily about our way.

I am not looking forward to it being pitch dark at 5pm. That's depressing. I'd rather it be light later in the evening. It doesn't matter to me if it's still dark at 7am. I get up before dawn and run so I'm used to being up when it's still dark. If I wanted it to be dark at supper time, I'd move way up north. But, since I like it warm and sunny, I'm more than happy to live on the Gulf Coast.

There's nothing magical about standard time or daylight savings time. DST was introduced during World War II in an attempt to reduce the amount of electricity being used to light houses. By reducing the electric load in the evening, more power and resource could be devoted to the war effort. Just a few years ago DST was extended by a couple of weeks and the sun still rose in the east and set in the west.

So, how about it? Will you join my quest? Abolish standard time and enjoy an extra hour of light in the evening.

No comments: