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Memories of the 28th Century

Time Keeping

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I have thought up yet another proposal for the reform of time keeping. I was sitting in Starbucks this morning, mourning the lateness of the opening time six AM and remembering watching the sky brighten while sitting that same location, when it occurred to me that setting time by the Sun is a very good idea; people still live by the Sun, even though they use clocks to determine the time.

I first noticed how humans keep Sun time when I was working in Lewiston, Maine for several months. Every weekend I drove home, and along the way I stopped at a place in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I got to the place in Newburyport about six PM. I started that regime in January, so it was completely dark when I got there, and the restaurant/bar was well filled with people.

The food was rather good; although it had changed since I had been a regular there before, and that leads me to wonder how it is these days, or whether it has been converted to a veterinary clinic.

I usually had some food and some beverage and continued my way home. I continued that for week after week. And as the weeks passed the Sun returned more and more. With the return of the Sun the people were staying away until later. By the time in July I finished with that project I was one of the very few people there at six, but the place was quieter.

The clocks that we use do not take human preferences into account. It would be difficult to alter work schedules to take human preferences fully into account, because the length of day varies with latitude. But we could make some adjustments that might make life easier for some people some of the time. There already is a preference for working while the Sun is out, but we could adjust the length of the workday to adjust for the amount of sunlight. This could be done by setting time around Noon, so many hours before and after Noon, or we could go back to the old way of defining days as being the time when the Sun is up, and days end at sundown. An eight hour work day would either start four hours before Noon and end four hours after Noon, or it could start at sunrise and run for eight hours.

In the higher latitudes starting one's day at or before sunrise would be preferable, because people would get some Sun after work for most of the year. But it wouldn't make much difference in tropical regions, because the days do not vary in length as much as in high latitudes.

Through years of practice, I have found that getting one's workday finished as early as possible is a good thing, but there are other people who find late days to be preferable. Poor Richard's adage suggested the early day as more conducive to health, wealth, and wisdom. Considering Mr Franklin's life, he probably had some relevant experience and insight; he certainly did have a fair amount of health, more wealth than most people, and he is still regarded as having been imbued with wisdom.

I suspect that labor unions would protest, but a general schedule that started shortly before sunrise would be a good idea. As long as we didn't reintroduce the twelve hour day in which from sunrise to sunset was defined as twelve hours, even though that period of time varies in length. Hey, the Ancient Mesopotamians defined hours that way during some periods.

This is another part of the reform of timekeeping that we should institute as soon as convenient, perhaps at the same as when the week will be redefined as six days.