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Research Day: Daylight Savings Time

This entry was retroactively inducted into the "Research Day" category.

After 20+ years of wondering what the hell Daylight Saving Time was all about, I finally got off my ass and did some research on the subject. (Although the beauty of the Internet is that, technically, you get on your ass to do your research.)

So here's the deal. Good ol' Ben Franklin first proposed the idea of Daylight Saving Time (technically there's no "s" on the end of "Saving") to the Parisians in an essay entitled An Economial Project. Franklin realized that if he stuck to his usual schedule (presumable "early to bed and early to rise") even as the days got longer, he would be sleeping through an extra chunk of daylight in the morning and working for the same amount of time every evening in the dark. Since working at night meant spending money on candles, it made economic sense to get up a little earlier during the summer and go to bed a little later. Specifically

183 nights between 20 March and 20 September times 7 hours per night of candle usage equals 1,281 hours for a half year of candle usage. Multiplying by 100,000 families gives 128,100,000 hours by candlelight. Each candle requires half a pound of tallow and wax, thus a total of 64,050,000 pounds. At a price of thirty sols per pounds of tallow and wax (two hundred sols make one livre tournois), the total sum comes to 96,075,000 livre tournois.
I don't have the slightest clue how much money 96,075,000 livre tournois amounts to, but, dude, that's a lot of wax.

This same rationale -- we save money by shifting our schedules forward in the summer -- is what prompted Germany to adopt Daylight Saving Time during World War I. By the time WWII rolled around, many states in the US wised up and instituted it as well. But because states were allowed to choose whether or not they wished to observe DST, the nation was hodge-podge of differing times, which had to be a major drag for, like, train schedule makers and whatnot. Finally, in 1974, Nixon signed into law the Daylight Saving Time Energy Act which settled the matter once and for all ... except for Indiana, Arizona and Hawaii who are a bunch of rabble-rousing chrono-rebels.


And what the hell, as long as I'm spilling the secrets of the calendar I may as well go whole hog. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox unless the full moon is on the equinox in which case it is after the following full moon. A "blue moon" is the second full moon in a single calendar month. (Although some purists argue that, originally, the phrase "blue moon" referred to the third full moon in a season that has four full moons -- follow that?). And in the Gregorian calendar, February 29th is a leap day if the current year is divisible by 4 and is not divisible by 100 unless it is divisible by 400. Oooookay, if you say so.

And that's one to grow on.

Daylight Saving Time facts shamelessly stolen from here.

Posted on April 07, 2002 to Research Day