PETITION FAVORING CENTRAL TIME (sun overhead near noon)
I've had a little e-mail exchange with one of the Indiana state representatives who strongly favors eastern time. He wondered why people seem to have such a preference for having their clocks somewhere near noon when the sun is overhead, at least during the shorter winter days. I submitted the following thoughts on this apparent phenomenon, which seems to be particularly strong among those Indiana residents who favor Central time.
Obviously we could adjust to about anything if there were some compelling reason to do so. There's no reason why our whole country couldn't set their clocks to the local mean time of Los Angeles, or New York City, or (splitting the difference) even Sioux City, Iowa. For that matter, the whole world could decide to use Greenwich Mean Time.
Everyone would figure out what time their clock reads in order to sleep when it's dark, be awake when it's light, eat breakfast somewhere near sunrise, supper somewhere near sunset, and lunch somewhere in the middle.
There are even some places in the world that have actually learned to tolerate having their clock time quite a bit different from local time. Western China and parts of Alaska are a couple that come right to mind.
While I'm not sure I can give an objective explanation why most people seem to prefer having their clocks set pretty close to their local mean time, I do see a couple of pieces of evidence that indicate pretty strongly to me that it is so.
First, when the time zones were first conceived and set up, why did the settle on 24 one-hour zones? Fewer wider zones might have been just as, or even more, convenient. I conclude it was at least in part because most people at the time, and I believe probably still today, are willing to set their clocks up to 30 minutes or so faster or slower than their local time for the sake of convenience of commerce, but not a whole lot more. I elaborated on this thought further in the following DOT post.
Second, when I look up "noon" in my big Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, the first definition is "midday" and the second definition is "twelve o'clock in the daytime". When I look up "noonhour" the definitions are "the hour between 12 noon and 1 p.m." and "lunchtime". When I look up "midday", it says "the middle of the day; noon or the time centering around noon".
Granted, that is somewhat simplistic, but I still think it also gives some pretty strong empirical evidence of just how deeply ingrained these conventions are in our collective cultural psyche. Anybody who decides it's worthwhile to push away from those definitions has a pretty uphill battle cut out for them, as is readily observed in Indiana now.
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