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Time shifts backward early Sunday morning

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Posted: Friday, October 30, 2009 12:00 am

If daylight saving time bugs you, there may be a reason.

Turns out the idea was first proposed in 1895 by George Hudson of New Zealand. He was an entomologist. Apparently he wanted the shift so he would have more time after work to collect insects.

The next semiannual time shift takes place early Sunday morning. When the clocks read 1:59:59 and it tries to become 2 a.m., it actually becomes 1 a.m.

Spring forward, fall back. That's the best way to remember which switch is which.

At least Sunday's change is the comfortable one. It results in a 25-hour day on Sunday. That means you can get nine solid hours of sleep, with the day still untouched.

The big hassle comes from changing every clock in the house on Sunday. The clocks on the wall, the alarm clock (don't forget that one!), the clock on the mantelpiece, the kitchen clock over the sink, and the clock on the stove. Don't forget your wristwatch. And whoops, almost forgot the clock in the car. Forgetting that one could cause some real problems come Monday.

Changing wall clocks isn't usually so bad - it just takes time, so to speak.

Electronic clocks can cause more problems, because you have to push one button twice while holding another, or some such variation, and every clock has its own variation. And if you have the urge to throw one of them so you can see time fly, go ahead.

One early proponent of the concept of taking better advantage of daylight hours was Benjamin Franklin. While American envoy in Paris in 1784, he wrote an anonymous letter suggesting Parisians could save money on candles if they'd just get up earlier.

Franklin suggested ringing church bells and firing cannons to arouse Parisians sleeping off a late night in the nearest salon. History does not record whether he thought the cannons should be loaded.

America adopted DST in 1918 on claims that it saves energy, improves health and safety, and increases the all-important worker productivity. States are not required to observe the change.

So does DST improve life?

Many studies show modest gains at best. For example, a study in Sweden in 2008 showed fewer heart attacks in the first three days following the fall shift, but more cardiac events after the spring shift.

Some studies claim to show DST causes more energy use.

For example, one study showed DST use resulted in a 3 percent increase in gasoline consumption in March 2007, compared to the two years before on standard time. Apparently some people took advantage of more daylight to do more driving.

And a recent study showed DST caused a 4 percent increase in electrical usage in Indiana after it went over to DST. Maybe people used less electricity for lighting, but they used even more for their air conditioners.

However, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, remains a DST proponent. He and U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., in 2005 were responsible for adding a provision to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to extend DST.

"The primary reason we changed it a number of years ago was to save energy," said the St. Joseph Republican. "The Department of Energy last year did confirm what they said back in the 70s, that Daylight saving time would save on energy."

The four-week extension of DST saved $2.9 million barrels of oil, and some $498 million, over the course of that year, Upton said. "Our detractors didn't think it was true, but the DOE confirmed it."

The fall switch previously came on the last weekend of October, and the amendment changes that to the first weekend of November, Upton said. The change makes Halloween a lot safer for children, he said.

Halloween is "one of the most dangerous days of the year for kids," Upton said. "…By moving it from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November, our youngsters will get an extra hour of daylight they didn't have before, which is a critical factor in why we picked this date."

For those who still have trouble coping with the extension of DST, Upton had some comfort.

"It's not going to change again," Upton said. "This is it. It's locked in."


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