March 26, 2019

Daylight Savings and Sundials

I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. We’ve got Daylight Saving Time (DST) coming up soon in Germany. On the 31st March at 2am, the clocks jump forward and it’s suddenly 3am. We “lose” an hour.

I don’t mind DST. I like to wake up before the crack of dawn, and have my alarm set to 6am. Recently dawn has been sneaking up on me, and this morning the day cracked open at 5:56am. I don’t need to change my alarm though, I just need to wait until next week - then the sunrise will occur at 6:45am, and once again have the jump on the start of the day.

There is also benefit of getting an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day, our sunset will be shifting from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Lovely.

The bit I don’t like about DST is having to change all the clocks. Every time I get confused about whether I should move the clocks forward an hour or back an hour. Thankfully most internect connected devices automatically update themselves automatically when they sync with a local NTP server, so I don’t need to figure out the correct time - I can trust whatever time is displayed on my phone.

I wonder if at some point in the future, all clocks will be connected to the internet and can automatically sync themselves to the correct time. Most of the clocks I own already do, such as the ones on my phone, laptop, camera and kindle. Funnily enough, my wrist watch is the only clock I own that doesn’t update itself - though if I had a “smart” watch I wouldn’t have to even do that.

It’s quite common to find clocks inside other household appliances, such as microwaves and ovens, though these are usually set incorrectly and can’t be trusted. Over time I’m sure the “smart” variety of these devices will become more common as well - similar to how everyone has a “smart” TV. I’m not a big fan of “smart” devices - I’d rather have a device I could use without needing an app to setup - however it does mean it’s one less clock to update.

You can even replace the clock on your wall with a “smart” wall clock, such as Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock - which features an LED display, Alexa integration and most importantly “syncs time to a paired Echo device, including automatic adjustments for daylight saving time”.

I imagine it won’t be that long before the majority of clocks in daily life will able to keep themselves up to date, and the struggle of DST will be a thing of the past - some people might not even notice the change until they realise that there is suddenly a bit more sunlight in the evening.

I’ve been thinking about what we could do if we lived in a world where all the clocks were connected to the internet. One idea that appeals to me is to get rid of all our current time zones and instead use Solar Time. Solar Time is the time that is displayed on a Sundial, and is dependent on your location on the Earth and the time of the year. I think this would mean that midday would always be exactly the time when the sun is highest in the sky.

I really want to learn more about sundials, the Earth’s rotation and orbit and the mystical sounding “Equation of Time”. I think it would be cool to create a website that displays the current Solar Time wherever you are in the world. Maybe it could integrate with https://what3words.com and you could find out the Solar Time difference between any two points on Earth. There is currently a 12 hour difference between New Zealand and Berlin using the UTC timezones, but I wonder what the actual Solar Time difference is…


© 2020 George Czabania