Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Senate Wasted Its Time Sneaking In A Bill To Make DST Permanent

                       Shadow stick technique to gauge apparent solar time
                                Equation of time showing irregularities in apparent solar time

The last time I recall a spurious vote taken in the dead of night (finally near 3 a.m.) was in 2003, when a Reep-dominated House - under the lash of Billy Tauzin (R-La) Majority Whip- passed the The Medicare "Modernization Act".  Specifically to craft legislation friendly to the Pharma industry. The infamous legislation created the "doughnut hole" for prescription drugs, with a threshold beyond which Medicare seniors would have to pay the full 'freight'.  Needless to say, it bankrupted many and those who weren't had to choose between meds and food.

  Given this, I could hardly believe when I actually learned that on Tuesday our own U.S. Senate did a less egregious - but still dastardly - number on all of us.  With no other real legislation to pass -this lot, led by Marco Rubio (who wrote it) -  snuck the Sunshine Protection Act through the Senate without review and  unanimously passed it without consultation or deliberation.

This misbegotten sham would establish a fixed, year-round time but

 one at odds with citizens' mental and physical health. If this vapid nonsense is  passed by the House and signed by President Biden, our clocks would stay in the “spring forward” mode in November 2023, leading to permanent daylight saving time across the nation.  This would be with the exception of a handful of sane states and territories that observe permanent standard time.  

Okay, why is standard time such a big deal, you ask. Well, it's a big deal because it's derived from mean solar time, the time predicated on the 'mean Sun'.  As I've noted in previous posts, e.g.  

Selected Questions-Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum

 Time by the Sun is what is called "apparent solar time" and is the mode on which our circadian rhythms are based.  It is best described as time that we'd register using a sundial, or simple shadow stick (see sketch at top).  However, this is not used for human time measurement because it's based on Earth's rotation rate which is not uniform. Thus, we have invented mean solar time - based on what we call the "mean Sun"-  a fictitious object which always moves at a uniform rate through the year, i.e. assumes the rate of the Earth's rotation is uniform through the year.  It is from this that one obtains standard time.

Standard time uses the mean Sun in tandem with time zones.  A “time zone” is defined by taking the 360 degrees through which Earth rotates in one day, and dividing it by 24, since it requires approximately  24 hours (actually 23 h 56m) to make one revolution. Thus, one standard time zone would be generated via (360 deg/ 24 hr) = 15 deg/h or 15 degrees of longitude per hour - so be 15 degrees of longitude in expanse. Thus, time zones (calibrated per HOUR) were marked out by LONGITUDE differences.

Make no mistake, the move to eliminate time changes twice per year is important. It's just the wrong time move, i.e. in the exact wrong

direction. Permanent daylight saving time is not the way to go, unless

the powers-that-be wish to wreak havoc with our mental and physical

health. Am I being histrionic or hysterical? Not at all!

Humans evolved outside, in nature, and our brain clocks are attuned to the Sun. Standard time is basically "Sun time", as I showed.  I.e. an approximation of the solar day and is more or less in line with the rising and setting sun. Decades of research shows we’re at our best when we live harmoniously this wayDaylight saving time, on the other hand, is totally artificial with respect to our natural Sun-ordained biology.

It is essentially mandated jet lag. If you've ever experienced jet lag, as

I often have -say traveling to Switzerland or Germany - you know what

I mean.

Permanent daylight time, then, if the House signs on to this insanity, would leave us perpetually out of sync with our internal clocks, i.e. the dark-light cycle doesn't change but the time does. As pointed out by Prof. Till Roennenberg, president of the World Federation of Societies for Chronobiology: 

 "Most of our physiology is governed by a circadian clock. This body clock synchronizes to sun time. Daylight Saving Time means that we virtually live in another time zone without changing the day-light cycle. The problem is the misalignment...Now suddenly we have to do things which are not at the biologically appropriate time. It leads to a general stress of the physiology.  The acute effect of daylight saving time in the days after the change are an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. "   


  "The acute effect of daylight saving time in the days after the change are an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, studies show. The risk is usually in the days following the switch, and not long term, raising questions about whether the time change is triggering heart attacks that would happen anyway."

Let's dismiss another objection by the 'no biggie' buffoon brigade, i.e. "Ah you can get used to it, stop whining!"

While this lot does admit the negative ramifications of daylight saving time can affect everyone, they fail to appreciate the adverse effects are especially problematic for those in particular geographic areas.  Say like those of us out West.  Why? The westernmost areas of a given time zone already have later sunsets compared with the easternmost areas.  But with DST these communities experience a greater mismatch between their circadian clock and the external environment and an increased risk of adverse health outcomes. Why do you think Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s Arizona will get to keep its already permanent year-round standard time, which it has had since 1968. Yet she won't grant this concession to the rest of us.

In addition,  again with respect to geographical divergence, the seasonal variation in length of daylight is more pronounced at northern latitudes. An extended period of morning darkness in the winter during year-round daylight saving time may also threaten the safety of children who are traveling to school in the dark. When I was at the Geographical Institute in Fairbanks, AK it was especially hard not seeing the Sun rise until 11 a.m. And that was just in normal standard time, not with DST tossed in too.

WaPo columnists Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright in their recent piece ('Let’s say a permanent goodnight to daylight saving time') have noted that If the House were to pass this atrocity in its current form, then for the first time in 40 years, the United States would experience DST in winter. The Sun would rise unnaturally late, particularly in the northwestern part of every time zone: 9 a.m. in parts of Texas, 9:15 a.m. in Indiana, 9:45 a.m. in parts of Michigan. Students wouldn’t see the sun until well into their school day. This experiment happened in the United States in 1974. People found it so painful, it was abandoned after one winter.  Are our congress critters' brains so drained they are not able to remember that sorry era?

The WaPo writers also note permanent DST  would be tremendously bad for kids. This is because of the later biological pacing of the teenage brain.  Thus:  "waking at 7 a.m. already feels to young people like waking at 5 a.m. With permanent daylight saving time, it would feel like 4 a.m. This would put a serious strain on teen mental health. The result would be, among other things, shortened sleep for a population that is already severely sleep deprived and a potential uptick in rates of depression, when teens are already struggling with elevated levels of depressive symptoms and suicidal thinking."

Need I say more? Ok, I will: Any policy that’s bad for teens is bad for the rest of us too. You really want sleep-deprived teens driving next to you on the interstate? You really want even more politically bereft zombies stalking the land, unable to discern fact from political fiction or Trump's odious lies? Well, that's also what we're looking at if the House signs on to Rubio's "creature."

Daylight saving time takes sanity and mental balance, judicious decision making from us. During this period, the majority of people go to bed later, while still having to wake at the same time for school or work, which leads to accumulated sleep debt. The reason our health hasn’t deteriorated further is that this happens in spring and summer, when the day length is long and the sun is already up when we wake. Daylight saving time in winter would make every morning a dark, dreary struggle — and people’s health and moods would unravel. Look for more shootings, more carnage, more hostility - as if we needed any more.

So why did the Senate find it necessary to sneak this bill in, with no consultation or deliberation?  Because all 100 were desperate for any kind of unanimous "win" to show "bipartisanship" - never mind it was all empty posturing.

 Update  11/4:

A WaPo news item just over the transom indicates Rubio's cockeyed permanent DST boondoggle may have bitten the dust once and for all.   

As the end of daylight saving time nears, a bill to make it permanent has collapsed

This is why we now see the Senate wasted its time passing this nonsense.

See Also:


Guest Opinion: Changing time is fine, but Congress wants to push our clocks in the wrong direction

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