Saturday, March 10, 2012


“The theory of relativity put an end to the idea of absolute time!   It appeared that each observer must have his own measure of time as recorded by a clock carried with him, and that identical clocks carried by different observers would not necessarily agree.”
A Brief History of Time
By Stephen Hawking 


This year as we approach Daylight Savings Time, and have to set our clocks forward one hour, we are also living through the four year phenomenon of a leap year. 

The Earth takes 365days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds to make one revolution around the sun. 

At some point in human history man became aware of the cyclic nature of the seasons and very early on primitive cultures designed lunar calendars to predict seasonal changes that affected their life styles. 

Six thousand years ago the Egyptians devised a solar calendar of twelve months of thirty days plus an extra five days.   This was later adopted by the Greeks. The Romans took the Greek calendar and modified it to include a leap year.  Israel and Saudi Arabia still use a modified lunar calendar to this day.

There was no one born on earth and no one died between October 5th and October 14th in the year 1582.

The Julian calendar, a reform of the Roman calendar, was introduced by Julia Caesar in the year 46 BC.   The calendar design was 365 days divided into twelve months with a leap day added to February every four years.   Even with leap day added, this calendar was off by eleven minutes a year and so by 1582 the error had accumulated to ten days.  To correct this inconsistency Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the day following October 4th would be called October 15th (skipping ten days.)

Great Britton did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752, at which time they dropped eleven days from September to correct for the time disparagement, and they moved News Years day from March 25th to January 1st.   

You think this is confusing?  The way it actually works is:
Every four years we add a day (February 29,) but every year devisable by 100 we skip the extra day – unless the date is also divisible by 400, in which case we add the day. 

Even with all the adjustments our calendar is still not accurate.  On December 31, 1999 the world stood by for a millennium computer disaster, while fundamentalist Christian churches portended the Rapture would bring about an end of the world.   However, in our western calendar there is no zero-year, so 2001 was actually the beginning of the 21st century, and as far as we can determine the birth of Jesus took place in the year of 4 BC (December 25 is an arbitrary date), so our Christian calendar is off by four years.  


Time should be considered as Philosophy not Physics – Time is a property of human consciousness, not a factor of the universe.   It is a filing system that humans use to measure certain points during their journey of existence.   The basic elements of the universe, whether subatomic or large, simply go about their business of being matter or energy without regard to how long they have existed.”
Paraphrased from comments by Bob Fish in Discovery Magazine 08/2007

In the early days of America, farmers kept time by a noon mark: a stick at the base of a north/south mark on the ground.  This worked fine until the advent of the railroad.   Railroads had to keep to a time schedule for arrival and departures, and it was impossible to publish a schedule that reflected sun time.   Sun time differed from town to town and city to city: when it was noon in New York City it was 11:55 in Philadelphia; 11: 47 in Washington; 11:35 in Pittsburg - as many as 30 different times could be found in towns on an east/west course across most states. 

In 1847 the railroads proposed a standard time schedule for the US with 4 time zones.  Railroads in England began operating on a standard time schedule in 1880, and in 1883 the railroads in the US began operating on a new standard time schedule. 

Congress called for an international conference to establish international time zones, and at that conference it was decided that the zero time zone be located in England.   In America, Christians opposed the time zones (God’s time, not Vanderbilt’s) and preachers across the country smashed clocks and watches on their pulpits.  When it became obvious that time zones were inevitable Christians wanted Bethlehem to be named the zero time zone.


Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Ben Franklin

Europe enacted Daylight Savings Time (DST) in 1916 during World War One to conserve energy and maximize daylight production.   After the US entered the war in 1917 it switched to DST to maximize factory production.  In 1919 DST was repealed by Congress, but was reinstated during World War Two, though states were allowed to opt out.   In 1966 Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, and at present all states, with the exception of Arizona, observe Daylight Savings Time.

Daylight Savings Time was sold to the public as an adjustment of working hours to allow for more recreational time for workers.  In reality Congress sees an economic basis:  production is higher during daylight hours so on second shifts workers tend to produce more goods during DST, also the extended daylight after work allows more hours for shoppers and increases retail sales.

When I was working I always hated Daylight Savings Time in the spring and loved it in the fall.   To me, the extra hour in bed was always more important than extra daylight after work.

 the Ol'Buzzard


  1. "However, in our western calendar there is no zero-year, so 2001 was actually the beginning of the 21st century"
    Not you too? The year 2000 ended the 20th century (20x100=2000)an d the 21st Century began with 2001 and will end with 2100.
    Early to rise, early to bed, makes a man healthy, wealthy and dead.
    Sir Sanford Fleming came up with Standard time, dividing the world into 24 time zones of 15 degrees each.

  2. O'l Buzzard,
    Be glad that you do not live in Indiana. The NW and SW counties are on central standard time and the rest of us are on eastern. So, going to Evansville I pick up on hour
    it is 2:17 here and 1:17 there. Coming back north I lose that hour. The reason is the proximiety to markets in Chicago and southern Illinois.
    Being overseas required me to adjust my clock to be able to call home and not wake Maom and Dad up in the middle of the night - 16 hours differnce in Thailand, 14 in Korea.

    Great post!


  3. I hate DST! For me the most depressing day of the year is the day we set our clocks back in the fall. I'm in Europe and our DST dates are always different than yours! Then again, France is different that Great Britain which is GMT...I'm CET..Central European Time.
    I worked for a railroad for almost 8 years in Ohio. I was a great believer in Railroad time. Now I travel quite a bit by rail here in France, so I always tell people that my watch is set for SNCF time...not a bad thing, actually, I'm always 15 minutes late.

  4. In 1966 Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, and at present all states, with the exception of Arizona, observe Daylight Savings Time.
    Hawaii doesn't play that game either.(Hawaiians are too laid-back to worry about time!! Hang loose!!) In '87 I worked in Hawaii for a few weeks. When I went there the time difference to EST was 5 hours. While I was there the difference became 6 hours when daylight savings occurred and EST became EDT. When I flew back to the east coast that 6 hour difference was a bitch as I couldn't fall asleep until 1-2am. After a week I flew to the west coast and got my internal clock readjusted.

  5. This is a great post, but I'm going back to bed.

  6. now if we could convince them to not switch it back in Oct. them bastids.


COMMENT: Ben Franklin said, "I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false."