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Daylight Saving Time Listicle

Twice a year, we all ask ourselves, “So what was the point of this in the first place?” Well, I thought I knew why we change our clocks, but apparently I was wrong.

Here’s assorted list of Daylight Saving Time facts. Some of these are easily picked out of the Wikipedia article, but a few are somewhat more personal and specific.

1. DST didn’t start with Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin gets credit for a variety of inventions, and he did write a letter suggesting (basically) that Parisians should wake up earlier with the sun. However, he didn’t actually suggest DST. That didn’t start, in most places, until the 20th century.

2. DST wasn’t for farmers, either

Another factoid is that we enacted DST to help farmers get more light in the mornings. While those of less willpower such as myself would prefer to sleep in, the story goes that it helps with their schedule.

I haven’t spoken to any farmers to confirm that, but that wasn’t the main motivation. Apparently, DST was implemented more broadly during World War I and World War II to save on coal and energy for the war efforts. Eventually, it became a permanent thing.

3. DST is a big deal for parents

I suppose my closest experience to being a farmer is trying to will another living creature into adjusting schedules literally overnight. As I have now learned, it’s significantly more difficult than trying to adjust myself.

It’s a big enough deal that there’s a litany of content about managing sleep schedules for DST. The basic idea is to adjust a child’s schedule in 15 minute increments over the course of several days to make it as seamless as possible.

It’s a great theory, but I can say from personal experience that we have been running an hour late for two mornings in a row.

4. Spawning Tool is completely broken for 1 hour every year

Well, it’s probably broken more often than that, but it’s reliably broken for one hour every fall, and I have basically no intention of doing anything about it.

I presume that most people have thought about but not directly experienced the actual time change. In the spring, there’s an hour that just doesn’t exists, whereas in the fall, 2AM comes around twice.

A more diligent programmer would handle this problem by making sure that all time and date data is consistently annotated with timezones so it’s clear whether that’s 2:30AM before or after DST.

I, however, consider that too much work.

So for about an hour every fall, I get thousands of emails overnight about AmbiguousTimeError, and nothing works.

And then we move on for the rest of the year as though nothing happened.

5. California tried and failed to get rid of DST

It’s all over the news now that the Senate passed a bill to make DST permanent in 2023 to avoid future time changes.

However, this came up as recently as 2018 in California. That year, voters passed a Proposition to allow the legislature to eliminate DST. Unfortunately, nothing came of it, but at least we tried.

If you’re unfamiliar with the system, California has these ballot propositions that allow the people to directly vote on a variety of measures. Direct democracy may sound like fun as we consider the gridlock in Washington, but I personally find it problematic.

As I read about the details of most propositions, I realize that I’m woefully incapable of making a good decision on it. And I think that’s true for most people. Most voters have real opinions that should be heard, but most voters also don’t understand the minutia and long-term ramifications of specific language in laws. There are plenty of propositions that are quite misleading in their wording that are counting on voters voting with their heart and not with the eye of a lawyer.

As such, I found it amusing that while most propositions are binding, the DST proposition wasn’t. One thing that regular voters are actually capable of understanding is one thing we couldn’t actually do.

6. DST helped research in racial bias in traffic stops

I love clever designs in research. Many interesting results come from hard work and dedication, but there are some fun details in there, too.

To greatly simplify the experimental design, researchers were interested in evaluating whether black people are pulled over more frequently than white people in traffic stops. The first idea is that the “veil of darkness” at night would provide some differentiation from daytime where police officers would be unable to see the race of the driver. However, there are lots of other variables to control for between what happens at, say, 2PM versus 10PM. They had to find a part of the dataset that was as similar as possible except for how dark it was.

And that’s when they used the impact of DST. By comparing data around sunset just before and after DST, they could take the same time but with very different light to get a more direct comparison.

You can get a much better explanation of the study here.

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