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Physics experts debunk Spain GMT myths and warn time-zone change would be 'disastrous'
SCIENTISTS have warned that putting Spain back onto GMT as it was before World War II would be 'disastrous' and do little or nothing to improve the work-life balance.
Head of Applied Physics at Santiago de Compostela University in Galicia, Dr Jorge Mira, says turning the clocks back 'would solve nothing' and 'would even bring more problems'.
He says he and fellow scientists are 'observing with a great deal of panic' how those in favour of placing Spain on Greenwich Mean Time are 'looking at a flat map of the world, when the Earth is actually round', leading to 'arguments which are little more than fallacy'.
Dr Mira says mainland Spain is on the correct time lag if the map is globe-shaped, and that the country's way of life would carry on as normal 'whatever the hands on the clock say'.
“The sun is going to keep on rising and setting just as before,” he stresses.
“For example, if someone leaves work at 18.00 and, with the clock change, this means going home in the dark, all that's happened is that life now involves an extra hour of darkness – and if, in compensation, you start work an hour earlier, then you're in exactly the same position as we're in now.”
He says Spain is erroneously trying to compare itself with northern Europe, which has fewer hours of daylight in winter and more in summer than the south.
And he debunks the long-running tale of how dictator General Franco put the clocks forward an hour to align with his Nazi and Fascist allies in Germany and Italy during the War.
“During World War II and the Spanish Civil War, there were numerous time-zone changes throughout Europe – it was actually French president Charles de Gaulle who, at the end of the second World War, wanted to keep Central European Time, and Spain chose to remain in line with France.
“So the current CET time zone in Spain is European, French, and driven by De Gaulle, not by the Nazis, and France and Spain are on the same latitude.”
Dr Mira and other physics experts say there is no scientific evidence that the people of Spain would enjoy more free time away from work if the country moved to GMT.
And scientist José Fernández-Albertos of the High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) says daylight hours affect the way people go about their lives.
“Even though the time is the same in the far west and east of mainland Spain, they do not see the sun at the same time, so their social habits are different,” he argues.
“When the sun goes down earlier than the clock shows, people want to get away from work earlier, but it would be a mistake to try to be like northern Europe in winter.
“In these countries, the working day is more condensed, finishes earlier and they eat earlier, because it gets dark earlier, whereas it would be difficult to work on this basis in southern Europe which has more daylight in winter.
“Instead, we should be trying to emulate countries like Japan, the USA, Italy and Portugal, which are in the same position in relation to the sun and where social habits and lifestyle are not that different to our own.
“Changing the clock time is unlikely to change the habits of a lifetime, because people simply adapt to the time zone they live in,” Fernández-Albertos continues.
His view is supported by Dr José María Martín Olalla, who holds a PhD in Physics from Sevilla University.
“People have adapted to their existing time zones, and changing these would do nothing more than alter a number on the clock,” he says.
“Other countries, like France, Belgium and Argentina, effectively live in the wrong time zone [France and Belgium are also, geographically-speaking, in GMT, he says] but nobody has a problem with it; the earth keeps on turning and midday will still come round every 24 hours.
“If we do go onto GMT, it will only benefit those with a very spaced-out working day that starts early, finishes late and has a very long lunch break in the middle; those already working a more condensed day with a shorter lunch will be worse off, because they'll have to start work earlier in the morning.
“Not everyone should set off for work at the same time of day, and we cannot regulate what people want to do when they leave off work at the end of the day,” he adds.
Time zones have 'nothing to do with the work-life balance', Dr Martín Olalla says.
“This balance is about how many hours you spend at work, how long you spend on lunch breaks and so on, and how many hours of leisure time you have – it bears no relation to what the clock says. The time is just a number; the work-life balance is about the duration of each activity, and the two are completely different concepts.”
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