Sunday, 30 October 2016

The hammer of darkness comes down again

Below: photo taken today at two minutes to four. WAAAAH! It's that dread time of year when the clocks go back and evening falls stupidly early and continues doing so until the last weekend of the following March. Many of us suffer to some degree or other from seasonal affective disorder, and lack of sunshine brings the blues.

We live on a planet that's tilted at 23.5 degrees from vertical as it orbits its star. The further away from the equator you are, , the greater the change in length of day over the course of that orbit. Were there no tilt, we'd all be living in perpetual equinox, from pole to pole.

Watch the earth as seen from the sun; keep your eye on northern Europe and the season name in the top left corner [Wikipedia].

One solution is to up sticks at this gloomy time of year and move to the southern hemisphere for the duration, and return north as spring begins to work its magic in Europe.

The other is to knuckle down and get on with it. Work hard, save hard, distance yourself from pleasure and, in a spirit of monkish asceticism and abstinence (with a break for Yuletide), brace yourself for the Four Darkest Months. Expect to feel gloomier than usual until the onset of spring.

Below:'s excellent sun graph. You can see where the clock spings forward and falls back. And you can check any place in the world on any day of the year.

Although today there's only nine and three-quarter hours of daylight, that's a full two hours more than at the winter solstice (7hrs 43mins for Warsaw). So the the next four months things will be no better than today. We can but look forward longingly to the splendour of a 16 and three quarter hour-long day next June.

I have long been suggesting that the waiting five months to return the clocks to summer time is a mistake, and the clocks should go forward during the last weekend of February, rather than March. This would give us symmetry - clocks go back two months before winter solstice and go forward two months after it - not three as at present. Indeed, the next time the day's as long as it is today will be 12 February - and yet we'll be deprived of that extra daylight in the evening for another month and half.

But here's a more radical suggestion. Let's fix the time of sunset. The same time, every day, the year round. Technologically, this is easy in today's networked world, if the will is there...

Now, at the summer solstice, the sun sets in Warsaw at 21:01; during the winter solstice, the sun sets here at 15:23. Most of us go to sleep around 23:00, around two hours after sunset on the longest day, and six hours after leaving work.

So just imagine this: going to sleep every day, the whole year round, two hours after sunset and six hours after finishing an eight-hour working day. In midsummer, you'd finish work at five pm as usual, get home at six, have three hours of daylight for outdoor sport and leisure - then two hours more at home before going to sleep. And in midwinter, you'd be doing exactly the same...

Imagine the clocks, instead of going backward and forward once a year, doing so every day - by a few minutes a day (more around the equinoxes, less around the solstices). This is not difficult - a signal is sent to every wi-fi-equipped watch, laptop, computer etc. The result is that the sun sets every day at 21:01. Summer, autumn, winter, spring. However, in this scheme of things, sunrise on 22 December would be at quarter to two in the afternoon, instead of quarter to eight in the morning. But who'd care? As it is, we wake in the dark, leave home in the dark and get to the office just after the day has broken. We sit out the best daylight hours of the short winter day and leave the office an hour after sunset. With the sun going down at a fixed hour, there'd always be the same amount of daylight at the end of each working day.

What do you think?

This time last year:
The working week with the clocks gone back

This time three years:
Slowly on the mend after calf injury

This time four years ago:
Thorunium the Gothick

This time five years ago:
Łódź Widzew or Widź Łódzew

This time seven years ago:
A touch of frost in the garden

1 comment:

Bozena Masters said...

Jolly good idea. I'm in.