Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I love DST

Not really; I actually think it's a symptom of over-powerful government feeling its oats. But I can't explain what brings it up specially this year better than the tastefully-named Gregg Easterbrook. Here we go:

Congress Is Afraid to Do Anything About Petroleum Imports, But Happy to Issue Orders to God: Enjoy your trick-or-treating in the dark tonight, because starting next Halloween, Daylight Savings Time still will be in effect on Oct. 31. The recent energy bill enacted by Congress -- which contains hundreds of pages of special-interest favors but largely does nothing about energy supply or consumption rates -- had a title lengthening the part of the year when DST remains in effect. Beginning in 2007, Standard Time will be in effect only from Nov. 4 'til March 9 -- two-thirds of the year will be non-standard, only one-third Standard. (Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii, which do not observe Daylight Savings Time.) Though I like an extra hour outdoors in the summer too, Daylight Savings Time seems to have gotten completely out of hand. The God-given cycles of sunrise and sunset aren't good enough for us?

Proponents of DST always say that it reduces electricity use, by postponing by one hour the time when all the interior lights of structures are turned on. See Michael Downing's "Spring Forward," an entire book devoted to attacking Daylight Savings Time! Downing acknowledges DST cuts electricity use but maintains it increases petroleum demand, which is more harmful than reducing electricity use is helpful -- especially considering Congress refuses to enact a meaningful energy policy. "Spring Forward" demonstrates that the primary energy impact of the extra hour of evening daylight is to cause people to drive places to do things; and while the United States has centuries' worth of coal and uranium to make electricity, we're already too dependent on imported petroleum from Persian Gulf dictatorships. What sinister conspiracy does Downing believe is behind the extension of Daylight Savings Time? The golf industry! Spring Forward asserts the extra month of DST added that Congress mandated in 1986 "represents $400 million in added annual sales and fees" to golf-course operators because more people play in the evening.

Royal Observatory
AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
We can tell you this is part of the Royal Observatory, but for PC reasons we cannot mention that it is in England.

The Obvious Solution Is to Rename It "Politically Correct Time": Speaking of Standard Time, since 1847 the world's time has been judged in relation to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, United Kingdom. In the days of sailing ships, Greenwich Mean Time was what British sailors set their timepieces to, in order to calculate longitude. Gradually, hours plus-or-minus GMT was accepted as the world standard for delineating time zones. Of course it's an arbitrary standard -- some place on Earth must be chosen, and whatever place is chosen would be arbitrary. In recent years a politically correct movement has demanded that Greenwich Mean Time not be spoken of, as it implies England is the center of world culture. Instead, Coordinated Universal Time is now the preferred term, since it makes no reference to the existence of English culture. But Coordinated Universal Time is still based on the time in Greenwich, England! Changing GMT to CUT changes nothing except to replace an exact physical description with a PC euphemism. And what about "Zulu time"? The clock reading in Greenwich is abbreviated Z, which is pronounced "Zulu" in radio argot (like "whiskey" for W, "November" for N and so on). This means United States military communications commonly refer to Greenwich Mean Time as "Zulu time." How long until saying "Zulu" is deemed politically incorrect?

This global time utility can be useful, though beware it is only "accurate to within 0.3 seconds." Think such tiny amounts of time can't matter? In calibrating the GPS guidance devices of the bombs dropped on Iraq in March 2003, Air Force planners took into account not only the lag between when a GPS signal was transmitted from a satellite and received by a smart bomb -- far less than a second at the speed of light -- they took into account the effects of relativity on the signals, since time passes ever-so-slightly differently when the bomb accelerates by falling.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! My school made it into the obscure college score of the week! One rival down, one to go!!!!