The Paradox of the Winter Solstice and Daylight Saving Time

As we approach the winter solstice on 21 December 2016) a paradox looms ahead of us. And it’s in cahoots with the daylight saving time.

A few months ago we switched off Daylight Saving Time (“DST”) and re-entered the normal time pertaining to our timezone on planet Earth. In this article I commented how the adjustment of an hour actually exacerbates the (perceived) problem of darkness and uses up daylight hours in the summer.

As we approach the winter solstice (21 December 2016) I see the same thing happening again, but now on a natural footing.

Days get longer after the winter solstice.
Days get longer after the winter solstice.

After the winter solstice the days begin to get longer because the angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation with respect to the sun decreases (i.e. increasingly points towards it). The trouble is that Winter begins on the winter solstice, and as a meteorologist will tell you…this is when it gets cold.

(Note that I’m ignoring here the meteorological definition of Winter which is defined as starting from 1 December. I have no problem here; we ignore the weather forecast due to inaccuracies so I’m happy to do the same here with their unastronomical definition of the seasons! πŸ˜‰ )

The bottom line is that this means we have increasingly longer days in which to be miserable about the cold weather.

At this point I should note that our friends the meteorologists will tell us that the reduced temperatures continue reducing after the winter solstice because of a thermal lag (“lag” here as in “behind”, not thermal lagging as in “padding around a hot water cylinder”). Lag doesn’t explain a reduction of temperature prior to the winter solstice!

So what is it with daylight saving time then? Should we use the model as a basis to implement a temperature saving time? Or do we use DST in an effort to emulate nature’s natural clock which appears to be playing a joke on us?


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Church Bells – a link with history?

Can we accept that church bells chiming β€œnow” aren’t for β€˜just’ now but that they’re a link through time where the past is connected through the present and into the future?

A couple of decades ago I was sitting in my English literature class which I was destined to fail. We were reading DH Lawrence’s “The Rainbow”. This – according to my teacher – was a novel where a spade wasn’t a spade. A horse in a field wasn’t a horse, it was a phallic symbol, for example. A church spire wasn’t a church spire, it was a vertical connection between Heaven and Earth.

Today, as church bells toll a couple of decades later, I am reminded of the nonsentities of literature – and of how much I hate church bells.

The bells, the bells πŸ™

Old church bell.
Are church bells really as old as they look, or do they have an apparent age? When they toll it seems like they go on forever πŸ™

The passing of time doesn’t need to be clanged out for us, especially by the bell in my local village which clangs every quarter hour – dark, ominous and with a terrible sense of foreboding . And then there’s the ordeal on the hour – or some other randomly allotted time – when the clanging is seemingly as relentless as Einstein’s use of a hot stove as a chair. It goes on forever πŸ™

There’s nothing inspiring, there’s nothing but…a clanger whacking the side of a piece of circular metal which has hung there for God knows how many decades. Perhaps centuries.

Spatial synchronisation

Church bells link time and nature?
Church bells ring out across nature and nations

The bells in my village aren’t the only ones causing this nationwide – in fact – international, sonorous display of monstrous monotony. The bells clang at the same time as other bells in other towns and villages, other countries and continents. Stamping out time’s beat at the same time in different places, a spatial synchronisation even across time zones.

They’ve always done it. Today. Yesterday. Last week. Last year…and all through the ages.

The spatial synchronisation is clear, but I think there’s an argument for a temporal synchronisation too.

Temporal synchronisation

My wife says that she likes the sound of church bells not for the sound they make (seriously…who does?) but because they represent a connection to history.

Clanging church bell disturbs

Can it be true that the church bells connect each moment in time? That the chime on the hour marks not only the passing of the hour here and the passing of the hour across the world, but that it also marks it for days gone by?

In other words, the one o’clock chime today also marks one o’clock yesterday, last week and all of the one o’clocks back through history? (And by extension – in the opposite direction – all of the one o’clocks in the future?)

There was a TV commercial several years ago which was trying to flog watches. According to the advert a watch didn’t tell the time, it marked the moments of memories and gave promise for moments in the future.

Much as I hate to agree with marketing directors, I agree. We celebrate dates with no question – birthdays and anniversaries, for example. Why not increase the temporal resolution to monthly, weekly, daily…or hourly? (It makes sense – young couples celebrate in this manner!) Passing hours on a clock are of huge importance, not just for now, but also for what has gone before as well as what it to come.

So perhaps we can accept that “now” isn’t ‘just’ now and that it’s a link through time where the past is linked through the chiming present and into the future.

Church bells then. A noisy insult to nature – or working with(in) it giving us a direct link across time?


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Time travel in nature

Sceptics of time travel might argue that it’s an abomination of the natural laws that are already in place. But time travel does appear in nature…

Sceptics of time travel might argue that it’s an abomination of the natural laws that are already in place. As Einstein said “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”.

That might be true…but this cartoon strip of “The Snippers” I found in the Dutch newspaper “The Metro” last week may have hidden truths…

Nature's fast forward
Nature’s fast forward. From “Snippers” cartoon.

Rough translation: Why does it seem with sparrows as if someone pressed fast forward?

So that’s birds. Not quite time travel, but victims of time’s accelerated passage.

A few weeks ago I saw a phenomenon which had me puzzling over time’s role in nature. We’re often lead to believe that everything has it’s time – it’s just that I thought that everything had it’s time at the right time.

Spring. The time for daffodils and crocuses to sprout and inject a blast of colour after the blandness of a cold and white winter. All well and fine, except these Dutch daffodils found themselves a little temporally displaced.

Daffodils in January
Daffodils in January

…poppies for drugs, and Dutch daffodils for time travel?

Flowers in the snow
Flowers in the snow

Well anyway. So much for the high speed sparrows – in nature everything is in balance. Let’s finish off with the slo-mo sloth!

The sloth: natural slow motion
The sloth: natural slow motion


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