Saturday, November 6, 2010

Don't Forget to Fall Back Tonight!

It's the first weekend of November, which means that it's time to fall back for those of us living in the United States. While most people are happy for an extra hour of sleep on this one night, for us astronomers, there are perks to Standard Time that are much more far-reaching, such as earlier bnights, a a last chance to see the summer sky, and not having to stay up so late for a winter preview. So, don't forhet to set your clocks back before you go to bed tonight.

So, as daylight Savings Time ends, why not learn a little with some trivia? Enjoy!

* Many ancient civilizations divided their days into 24 hours just like us, but adjusted the hours'
lengths so that there would always be 12 hours of day and 12 of night.

* While he did not propose DST, Benjamin Franklin, while serving as envoy to France,
anonymously published a letter suggesting people rise early (and thus go to bed earlier) to
economize on candles and make use of natural sunlight.

* DST was actually proposed by New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson, who
suggested a two hour daylight savings shift.

* English outdoorsman/builder William Willet also proposed the idea simultaneously. He
suggested advancing the clock during the summer months only

* Both Hudson and Willet had personal stakes in seeing more daylight: Hudson found that
extended time at night would allow more time to collect specimens. Willet hated having to cut
short his golf rounds and see many Londoners sleep through most of the mornings

* In WWI, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and allies) were the first to use DST
as a coal-saving measure in 1916. England and many allies quickly followed suit. Russia
started using DST in 1917 and the United States adopted the idea in 1918.

* While we shift by an hour today, twenty and thirty minute shifts, and also two hour shifts, have
been used in the past

* Even now, start/end dates aren't standard around the world

* Switch dates are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere

* In some areas, voters have rejected use of DST altogether while in other areas, there are pushes
to eliminate Standard Time and have DST all year long.

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