Daylight saving a dim idea whose time should end

This “daylight saving” they talk about every winter and spring doesn’t save any daylight at all. It’s a shell game where they move the daylight around and then you try to guess where it’s going to be.

It’s like Social Security. They tell you they are saving it, but just wait until January and try to get some of it out. They’ll tell you to wait until summer, when, of course, you won’t need it. I wonder when we will run out of daylight that was supposed to be saved for later. 

The idea of daylight saving has been around for a long time. Ancient people adjusted their schedules to coincide with the sun. The Romans used water clocks, but they adjusted the weight of the water by the month of the year. 

People say that Ben Franklin invented daylight saving, but that isn’t exactly true. He did publish a paper in The Journal of Paris in 1784 entitled, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” He suggested that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting up earlier in the morning in the summer. It was supposed to be a joke. Hello, it was Paris!

So who’s laughing now? Not me. Wouldn’t you know that some politician would eventually not realize it was a joke and propose it seriously? President Woodrow Wilson, who was notoriously lacking a sense of humor, used the first World War as an excuse to sign a daylight saving bill into law in 1918. It isn’t clear how the extra light was going to aid the war effort, but it made everyone suffer along with the troops. It seemed patriotic. 

Well, my wife had a better idea. You know those solar-powered pathway lights people put around their yards? My wife thought we should get a bunch of them for emergencies. Now, I don’t care much about lighting the sidewalk so that burglars won’t trip. I am much more concerned about the monsters under the bed and the late-night trips to the bathroom. Those are a couple of problems someone could shed some light on. 

But here’s her idea for really saving daylight. Like a lot of science, we start by taking something apart. If you buy one of those inexpensive solar pathway lights, you will find the solar collector and light source sit on top of a stake. Take the top of the stake off by gently twisting it. Then remove the little strip of paper that protects the battery, and place the collector in the sun for the day. 

In the evening, place the solar panel into the mouth of a jar of some kind. A canning jar works just fine. If the jar mouth is larger than the solar collector and light, you can cut out a little cardboard disc to support the collector. Then cut a hole in the middle to allow the light into the jar. The jar diffuses the light into a wider field, providing an excellent night light. 

Glass vases and decorative goblets also work well. In fact, the taller the vase neck, the wider the diffusion of light. Several of these can light an entire room quite nicely. Voila! Your own solar-powered, daylight-saving device that actually saves daylight! The next morning simply place each device on the window sill to recharge. 

You could also glue opaque figures on the side of the jar to cast shadows, use colored jars to create mood, etch the glass to mute the light further or in numerous other ways express your artistic talent in making your light saver. We tried some water with food coloring and a drop or two of oil. 

Should daylight saving be mended or ended? Personally, I only mend things I like. Mending usually involves strengthening weak areas or reinforcing damaged areas. “Endings” are probably most efficiently accomplished by burning. I think we should burn daylight saving. We could use the light. 

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.


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