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Three Alternate Proposals
Written October 27, 2022

The standard “working day” is eight hours.  So is the standard “good night of sleep.”  But those activities can be scheduled at any convenient time.  Why must we insist they occur according to arbitrary numbers on a clock?

It doesn't have to be that way.  Parks and cemeteries and beaches are open not “from 7:30 until 6:30” but “from dawn to dusk.”  Muslims observe the Ramadan fast during “daytime hours,” which are much longer and hungrier in summer than in winter. 

Proposal A:  Let's reset our clocks every three-month season.  On December 1, we could fall back an hour from standard time to winter time.  On March 1, we could recover that hour, springing forward to standard time.  (Those dates are within weeks of our current schedule.)  Then on June 1 we could spring forward an additional hour to summer time, enjoying all that evening sunshine before falling back an hour to standard time on September 1.  Folks might be annoyed to have to reset their clocks four times a year inside of only twice, but at least the dates would be easier to remember.  Australians might be annoyed that Perth is 14 hours ahead of New York in January but only 10 hours in July.  But we can adapt, right?

Proposal B:  Let's keep our clocks on standard time year-round but reset our schedules every three-month season, as shown below.

On some winter days, weather-related travel difficulties force school districts surrounding Pittsburgh to announce a two-hour delay.

Suppose the Departments of Education in northern states were to decree new starting times for classes.  For most of the school year, classes begin at 7:00 standard time, but in December through February the start is delayed until 8:00 (about an hour after sunrise).

Perhaps the kids’ employers might likewise find it convenient to switch to a winter schedule.  If so, those employers should also adopt a summer schedule for June through August, starting an hour earlier than normal in the cool of the day but quitting 6½ hours before sunset!

Proposal C:  Let's divide the day not into 24 hours but into 12 Durs plus 12 Nurs, which are not necessarily equal to each other.  Each Dur is one-twelfth of the time from sunrise to sunset, and each Nur is one-twelfth of the time from sunset to sunrise.  I'm told that in Hebrew these are called Sha'ot Z'man'iyot or “seasonal hours,” because their length varies with the seasons.

Starting the day at sunrise or D0, let's allow one Dur of daylight to get dressed and travel to work or school, which would then last from D1 to D9.

Afterwards we'd have additional time for other activities:  three Durs of daylight until sunset at D12 = N0, after which there'd be a few evening Nurs before bedtime.

At the spring or autumn equinox, one Dur would equal what we currently call 60 minutes, and the same goes for one Nur.  Summer and winter are different, however; in some places, quite different.  At Nome, Alaska, each Dur in June would equal about 100 of our current minutes, while each Nur would be only 20 minutes of twilight.  Timekeeping devices would need to be adjusted for their geographical location, and they'd also need to take the date into consideration.

A digital clock display might look like D8.227, with 227 milliDurs corresponding to our current :13:37.  The digits would advance at two different rates, switching between night and day.

An analog clock, or Clur, could keep its hand rotating at a constant speed but would require constant revision of its border labels.  In summer (D8¼ depicted on the left below), the Clur hand would take longer to advance to the border's next spaced-out number during the day than during the night.  The opposite would be true in winter (right).

During the Durs of a Chicago June, each of them 72 minutes by our current reckoning, you'd work 20% longer than in March but also get 20% more daylight for recreation.  However, you'd get only two evening Nurs (N0 to N2) for TV before the customary 480 minutes (N2 to N12) for sleeping.

During the windy 48-minute Durs of a Chicago December, the workday or schoolday would last just six of our current hours.  But with longer Nurs between sunset and bedtime (N0 to N5), there would be plenty of time for evening holiday celebrations.  How much time?  Also six of our current hours!



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