It's time to change our clocks again (and batteries in our smoke detectors), and if you're like most people, you're probably waking up an hour earlier cursing those darn farmers for their "daylight savings time" that they've foisted on the whole country. But what if I told you that farmers have nothing to do with it, that the whole country doesn't actually participate, and that it's not even called "daylight savings time?" Read on to separate fact from fiction.
What is Daylight Saving Time?
Daylight Saving Time, beginning in 2017 on March 12th at 2:00 AM, is when we set our clocks forward one hour. It typically starts on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November.
Who came up with this ridiculous idea?
It's hard to say. The idea has been credited to everyone from Benjamin Franklin in 1784 to George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand scientist, in 1895. It really took off around WWI, when Germany became the first to institute it country-wide.
Why do we arbitrarily change our clocks twice a year?
Here's where some of the myths come in. People think that it's to give farmers more time in the field, but farmers actually hated it and came out against it whenever it tried to get widespread adoption. The reality is that it's supposed to be an energy-saving measure - that's where the word "saving" in "Daylight Saving Time" comes from (and why the phrase "Daylight Savings Time" is wrong) - because an extra hour of daylight means one less hour that you'll be using energy to keep the lights on.
Saving energy sounds good, doesn't it?
It would, except it actually doesn't. That's because a lot of our energy use, especially in the summer, comes from things like air conditioning, not light bulbs. Also, with an extra hour of daylight, people tend to go out more, meaning more energy wasted on transportation and higher gasoline consumption.
So if there are no energy savings, there must be some other benefits, right?
Actually, it seems like there are a whole lot of downsides. In addition to not really saving energy - the whole reason it was invented in the first place - studies show that it's bad for your health, bad for worker productivity, and bad for traffic accidents.
Okay, I get it. Changing our clocks isn't great. But everyone does it, so there's nothing we can do!
Given all this, how is Daylight Saving Time still a thing?
Great question. I'll let John Oliver summarize in the video below: