Skip to content

Unknown Priors

Random ramblings from a preson of questionable sanity

2016 ISKL Forensics Competition - Original Oratory Entry

My Original Oratory entry for the 2016 ISKL forensics competition, published here in its full glory. Yes, I know, it is really, really, really bad, but I’m going to put it up here anyways for the sake of letting other people learn from my mistakes.

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving time, making timezones confusing since 1916. If you are not familiar with it, daylight saving time is a weird ritual in which countries move their clocks forward sometime in the spring, only to move them back sometime in the fall. To the rest of the world that doesn’t participate in this biannual ritual of clock fiddling, it might seem like a baffling thing to do. After all, clocks are fine the way they are, why change them?

The original idea, proposed by George Hudson, had nothing to do with saving daylight and everything to do with catching butterflies. He thought that if clocks were shifted forward in the summer, he would get more time after work to indulge in his hobby of catching butterflies. Of course, “butterfly catching time” is not exactly a sexy name that will get you votes, so he renamed it daylight saving time and sold it as a way to conserve daylight.

However, Germany, the first country to implement the system, did so because they needed more coal to fuel their efforts in World War I. The reasoning is that if the population woke up later and slept later, they will use less artificial light, freeing up coal for the war.

While that might have worked in 1916, does it still work in the modern world of 2016? As it turns out, this is a surprisingly hard question to answer. There is no consensus in the scientific community, with some studies claiming it does save energy and some studies claiming the exact opposite. But, the studies all agree on one thing: how little energy you save or lose. It is not 10 percent, it’s not 5%, it’s 1 percent. 1 whole percent of an increase or decrease in your energy bill. That’s about 4 dollars annually, which is not even enough for a cup of coffee, so we might as well ignore it.

Since daylight saving time’s energy savings are nonexistent, and most people don’t care about catching butterflies, should we we keep the biannual ritual of clock fiddling around? Unlike the previous energy problem, the research on this is very clear: no, clock fiddling causes more problems that it solves, if it solves any at all.

The most obvious problem comes from sleep deprivation. Waking up an hour earlier generally causes you to sleep less, and sleep deprivation has been shown to lead to heart attacks and suicides. Researchers have found that in the days following the time change there is a 10 percent increase in heart attacks and suicides. We are literally killing people by fiddling with clocks.

Another problem comes from scheduling meetings across time zones. Let’s say that you want to plan a conference between New York, London, and Sydney, which will be fun because none of the three agree on when to start and end daylight saving time. During the spring, in the space of 3 weeks, New York is 5 hours behind London, then 4, then 5 hours again, depending on the week, Sydney is either 11, 10, or 9 hours away from New York, and Sydney is again either 16, 15, or 14 hours from London. I know, I wrote this myself, and even I am confused. And the whole thing will happen again, just in reverse, when autumn comes.

This is madness! It might have not mattered 100 years ago in the Dark Ages of no internet, but, in 2016, where thousands international meetings are planned every single day, shifting around time zones isn’t going to do anybody any favours.

At this point, you might be wondering: wait, so how does this daylight saving thing work? We remove an hour from the day in the spring and add an hour in the fall - but, what does it actually look like on my clock? I’m glad you asked, because the solution is very … clever. So clever, in fact, that no clocks on the planet can actually accomplish such a feat. Our excellent governments decided for some reason that the best way to remove an hour from the day is to skip 2 am. During the spring, the official clock will go 1:57, 1:58, 1:59, 3:00. During the fall, to add an hour to the day, 1 am is repeated, and the official clocks go 1:57, 1:58, 1:59, 1:00. Surely all clocks on the planet can achieve such an easy task. I don’t know about you, but I have never in my life seen the hour hand on my watch jump from 1 to 3. In fact, I am pretty sure that it can’t.

What then? The clock fiddling advocate tells us to replace all clocks with digital clocks that have wireless chips in them to connect to the internet to update their time. I am sure that you can find some flaws in this line of reasoning, like – how do you tell your clock your wifi password? You can’t expect a tiny computer to run on battery power for a whole year. So, who gets the power? Your phone or clock? I can go on forever about the problems, but I only have so much time. Unless they add an hour in the middle of my speech.

To review, daylight saving time saves almost no energy, causes sleep deprivation, causes more suicides, makes planning international meetings an absolute joy, terrorises the twenty-four hour day, and trashes the non-internet- savvy clock. This is why we should get rid of it, to make timezones normal and less confusing again. Let us restore the former glory of timezones as they were before that dreadful day in 1916. Thank you.