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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Abolish daylight savings time

It doesn't make sense now, if it ever did. But there's one advantage: it screws up the Doomsday Clock.

Doomsday Clock on Daylight Savings Time, with radium dial
T he Doomsday Clock is a way for pretend scientists at a magazine called Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to demonstrate that they're concerned about things. In January 2018, after Donald Trump was elected, the clock was moved to T minus two minutes, partly because of global warming and partly because Trump's hair violates the laws of physics, thereby threatening the entire universe with annihilation.

But things are looking up. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it's actually now two minutes to one.

If you ask people why we have DST, they invariably say it's “for the children.” Well, like many people, I used to be a child once, a long time ago, and Daylight Savings Time was one of the many things that those grups had invented that didn't make too much sense.

Sunrise and sunset times
Sunrise and sunset times for New York and Miami, in the US Eastern Time Zone. DST is an attempt to keep sunrise at a constant time of day. Typical school bus arrival times are shown in green and blue.

The idea seems to be that we don't want kids to have to wait for their school bus in the dark. But take a look at this graph. School buses tend to pick up children between seven and eight a.m. and drop them off between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. If we set the clocks forward in the summer months, the sun rises and sets one hour later. In New York (40.7°N), Daylight Savings Time actually makes them wait in the dark more days (specifically between days 70–90 and 288–308) than keeping the clocks the same. In the afternoon, it makes no difference. In Miami (25.79°N), it's worse.

Sunrise and sunset times at various latitudes
Sunrise and sunset times at various latitudes (time zone = 4h west)

Oh the poor chillllldren! (Sorry, my keyboard got stuck there for a second).

Historically, Daylight Savings Time was invented so the children can help on the farm after school. Nowadays they stay indoors and play with their cell phones. They can do that just as well, or maybe better, in the dark. And most of them don't go to school at all in the summer.


We don't change the months for countries below the equator, even though summer and winter are reversed, yet we change our time zones. It's inconsistent. Near the equator, and in places like Sydney, Australia (33°52′S), sunrise and sunset barely change throughout the year.

There are many other reasons to get rid of daylight savings time. For one, we won't have to listen to contractors pounding and sawing on the roof until nine at night. And the contractors can go home at a more reasonable hour.

But why stop there? Let's do away with time zones altogether. If we're a global society, why not put everybody on UTC? That's what the military uses. It would make teleconferencing a lot easier, too.

mar 11 2018, 5:25 am 6:25 am. updated mar 25 2018

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