So You Think You Know: Daylight Saving Time Edition

crazy clock

Most of the nation turned the clocks back over the weekend thanks to the end of Daylight Saving Time. Here is everything you might not know about this strange time-changing custom.

Ben Franklin didn’t invent Daylight Saving Time.

Ben Franklin is commonly thought to have first come up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time, a myth perpetuated by the movie National Treasure. This is just one of the many factual inaccuracies in the movie, and a reason why any film with Nicholas Cage probably shouldn’t be considered a great history reference.

In fact, Franklin did indeed write about wasted daylight hours in a Parisian newspaper in 1784. In his letter, Franklin expressed shock that the sun rises so early, suggesting that if Parisians woke with the sun rather than around noon, they could make more efficient use of the day. Franklin wasn’t proposing changing the clocks, though; he was really just making fun of the French for being lazy. Oh, those French people.

The entire U.S. doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time.

Residents of Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t have to worry about changing their clocks twice a year because these states do not observe Daylight Saving Time. Hawaii’s tropical latitude means that there is little difference in the length of the days from winter to summer, making Daylight Saving Time pointless. In Arizona, observing Daylight Saving Time would mean the sun would be out until 9 pm instead of 8 pm during the summer; the heat in Arizona would make that rather inconvenient. Until 2006, parts of Indiana also chose not to observe Daylight Saving Time, so crossing the county line often meant changing times.

Germany was the first country to enact Daylight Saving Time.

In 1916, Germany enacted Daylight Saving Time to conserve electricity for the war effort. Great Britain followed a few weeks later. The U.S. didn’t follow suit until 1918, and Daylight Saving Time was repealed a year later after farmers lobbied against the measure.

Farmers hate Daylight Saving Time.

Many people believe that Daylight Saving Time exists for agrarian reasons, arguing that the measure allows farmers and farm workers to work the fields later into the day. In reality, most farmers hate Daylight Saving Time. The time change causes issues with livestock (cows, for example, aren’t ready to milked an hour earlier just because the clock says so), crops (farmers must wait until later in the morning to work the fields so that the dew has time to dry), and farm hands (who still leave at the same time for dinner, even if the daylight lasts longer).

Daylight Saving Time wreaked havoc in the U.S. for decades.

From 1919 to 1966, Daylight Saving Time was a patchwork with different localities starting and ending Daylight Saving Time whenever they pleased. During this time, passengers on a 35 mile bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio to Moundsville, West Virginia passed through 7 time changes. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which established nationwide start and end dates for Daylight Saving Time.

Daylight Saving Time doesn’t really save energy.

Daylight Saving Time is billed as an energy-saving measure. The theory is that an extra hour of evening daylight means an extra hour during which people aren’t turning the lights on, and therefore less wasted electricity. Once upon a time, this theory might have held true, but researchers believe that this is no longer the case. Researchers were able to test the theory in 2006 when Indiana instituted Daylight Saving Time statewide. They found that while demand for lighting dropped with the implementation of Daylight Saving Time, the extra hour of warm daylight increased demand for air conditioning, which counterbalanced any benefits of not turning on the lights. Most researchers now believe that the advent of air conditioning has cancelled any energy savings from Daylight Saving Time.

People just don’t like Daylight Saving Time – and it might be just plain dangerous.

A 2013 Rasmussen Report showed that only 37% of Americans think that Daylight Saving Time is worth the hassle. Some researches even go so far as to suggest that Daylight Saving Time is dangerous.

A 2007 study showed that people never really adjust their Circadian rhythms – biological patterns dictated largely by sunlight – to Daylight Saving Time, even weeks after the clocks change. Alterations to Circadian rhythms can result in fatigue and immune depression, making us more accident prone and more likely to get sick.

Research at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business found that time changes make employees less productive, with up to 20% of the time assigned to perform a given task used unproductively.

And, the most interesting tidbit for our readers, students living in countries that observe Daylight Saving Time had SAT scores that were 2% lower on average than the scores of those living in areas that don’t observe the time change.