Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's About Time

Hooray, daylight saving has started again.  The idea of having "more
daylight hours" is great - but can be achieved without forcing everyone
to change their clocks.  The switch to and from DST stuffs me up for a
few days :(  Oh well.

There are supposed economic benefits, e.g. people can stay up later and
buy things.  And it provides us with more daylight hours for recreation.
But if that's the case, then why move the clocks back just as winter
approaches?  The days are getting shorter, so why take another hour of
daylight from the end?  Here's an interesting article, about the change
from summer time back to "normal" time in the US last week, which argues
that maybe we have this daylight savings thing backwards.

"We should turn the clocks forward, not back"

Some quotes ...

"[W]e experience more darkness than necessary. An adult with normal
 habits who lives far from the equator will usually be asleep during
 several hundred daylight hours, almost all of these in the morning.
 Midday is not really the middle of anyone’s day. It is not even the
 middle of most people's working day."

"[W]hy do our days make such inefficient use of daylight? We get more
 pleasure out of sleeping late and going to bed late than from the
 opposite and perhaps centuries of this bias have accumulated. Rich
 people always lived later in the day than poor people: they needed
 to wait till their shaving water had boiled and they could afford the
 light and heat needed to play cards into the night. Only in modern
 financial markets did many rich people feel obliged to begin work in
 the dark."

"Enforced time-shifting is an intrusive yet effective piece of economic
 and social engineering. Next week, even people free to rise when they
 choose, such as retirees and newspaper columnists, will get up later
 and go to bed later. Who would believe they could be induced to do
 this by government decree?"

Here's a thought: if daylight saving is really about making more profits
for businesses, and given that inflationary pressures are stoked by
booming business, perhaps we could sacrifice daylight saving to avoid
another interest rate rise next month?

Anyway, that's economics.  Here are some scientific and philosophical
views of time.  A warning though - they might mess with your head :)

1. "Newsflash: Time May Not Exist"
"The problem, in brief, is that time may not exist at the most funda-
 mental level of physical reality. If so, then what is time? And why is
 it so obviously and tyrannically omnipresent in our own experience?"

2. "How long is a split-second? It's all relative"
"How does the mind tell the time when it is too brief for us to
 register? Researchers think they have discovered the brain's stopwatch
 and, along with it, a clue to conditions like dyslexia."

3. "No paradox for time travellers"
"Some solutions to the equations of Einstein's general theory of
 relativity lead to situations in which space-time curves back on
 itself, theoretically allowing travellers to loop back in time and
 meet younger versions of themselves."

4. "Everything you wanted to know about Time Travel"

5. Wikipedia articles
* "Time"
* "Philosophy of space and time"
* The End of Time
"In The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics, published in 1999,
 Julian Barbour denies that time exists as anything but an illusion."
* "Time Travel"
Includes examples of paradoxes related to time travel.