Friday, 29 March 2019

Changing time!

Suddenly everyone from weathermen to news broadcasters is reminding us to put the clocks forward this coming weekend. How did that come around so quickly? It seems no time at all since we were getting an extra hour in bed by putting the clocks back an hour in November.

There is some argument about who first came up with the idea of messing with everyone’s heads by changing the time. Presumably nobody bothered with it in the dim and distant past when people got up when it got light and went to bed when it got dark.

Some chap in New Zealand presented a paper on the subject to the Wellington Philosophical Society, proposing a 2-hour shift forward in October and a 2-hour shift back in March. This was back in 1895. It was considered to be an interesting notion but no action was taken.

Completely separately in 1905, independently from The Kiwi scientist, British builder William Willett suggested setting the clocks ahead 20 minutes on each of the 4 Sundays in April, and switching them back by the same amount on each of the 4 Sundays in September, a total of 8 time switches per year. I am rather glad that nobody put that idea into practice - no time for so much messing around! Think of the confusion!

Germany and Austria are said to have introduced the practice back in 1916 as a measure to minimise the use of artificial lighting to save fuel for the war effort. The UK and France, and the USA, followed suit but everyone reverted to the old no-change system after the end of World War II.

The Americans think it was all Benjamin Franklin’s idea, first proposed in a letter in 1784, but even though they introduced daylight saving during the World War years it was not until 1966 that it became standard practice. And then it was largely because so many states were all doing different things.

It is, however, quite possible that the Romans thought of it first. There is evidence, for example, that Roman water clocks used different scales for different months of the year to adjust the daily schedules to the solar time. There is clearly nothing new under the sun!

Some people blame farmers but they say they prefer to keep to one time all year round. That makes sense if you have animals to deal with. After all, animals don’t use clocks.

And doctors say that putting the clocks back in November is a good idea. A certain Professor Ken Wright, director of CU Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, says this:-

 “When we get this extra hour of sleep opportunity this is associated with a 5 percent decrease in the risk of heart attacks come Monday morning.”

Putting the clocks forward in March is a different matter. The reason for this, said Wright, is people in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep, and when they are deprived of sleep they experience stress, which can have some harmful side effects.

"When we lose that hour of sleep in the spring not only do we have a 5 percent increase in heart attacks, but there's an 8 percent increased risk of strokes and a 17 percent increased risk of dying at the wheel on the highway,” said Wright.

Presumably the same sort of thing applies here in Europe.

One man who deals with his stress in his own way is a Canadian called Jahte Le who relieves his stress by smashing things up in a “rage room”. No doubt spending time is a rage room is a much better idea that going and hitting someone. But this is a commercial enterprise. Someone is making money - and Jahte Le has spent thousands of Canadian dollars on it - setting up a place where people can break bottles, take a sledge hammer to computers and other annoying electrical equipment. I am amazed at the imaginative ways people find to get rich!

 And now even my phone has just sent me a message reminding me to put the clock forward. I can feel the stress and sleep deprivation already. Is there a rage room near here?

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