Tuesday, January 11, 2005

New Calendar Creation Conundrum

Another great article from Doc! - Sailor

New Calendar Creation Conundrum
Written by Doc Farmer
Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A physics professor at Johns Hopkins has apparently come up with a new calendar. But wait! It would seem that Doc Farmer beat him to it by about four years. So why no fanfare for our intrepid author? Is this all an insidious plot by clock makers and calendar printers? Hmmmm....

I’m a bit peeved today, as I write this commentary. Not because of any political angst or cultural
degeneration, which usually gets my hackles up. No, this one is a bit personal in nature.

Last week, I ran across a story in the NewScientist.com website. Basically, it covered this professor at Johns Hopkins who decided to create a new calendar structure because the one we have right now doesn’t work too well. The professor, one Richard Henry, apparently got a bit fed up with having to deal with changing his homework assignment schedules every year. All that “thirty days hath September” crap gets confusing, even to the guys who are working out the nature of the Universe, it would seem. Quite frankly, I can sympathize.

His idea is to have 52 weeks of 7 days each, which totals up to 364 days, and then having a “Newton Week” every few years with no month designation. Basically, it’d be an end-of-year holiday for the cosmologically inclined. Months would be 30 or 31 days, so you’d still get the days falling out of sync after a while. All in all, it’s not a bad idea. Not
great, but not bad.

The author of the piece, one Maggie McKee, did some research and interviews with others who are into calendars. She spoke with Owen Gingerich, an astronomer and historian of science at Harvard University. In the article, she quotes Gingerich as saying “This is the first proposal I’m aware of that gets into a standard calendar but doesn’t have the pattern of seven upset.”

That’s the part that bugged me. Because I created such a proposal over four years ago.

As many of my regular readers know, I’m neither Rep/Con nor Lib/Dem/Soc/Commie. I’m a proud member of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party (
http://www.omrlp.com) and have been for many years. In fact, I wrote many of their policies in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Our party
was created by Lord David Sutch, who was an inspiration to me in my political life. He led the party for over 30 years before his untimely death. In his tenure as the creator and leader of the OMRLP, however, he changed the political landscape in the United Kingdom. He did something that no other political party or leader had done in hundreds of years. He made politics FUN!

One of the ideas he had was called Decimal Time, in which you’d change the clock and calendar so that you’d have 100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, 10 hours a day, five weeks per month and 10 months a year. He wanted to abolish January and February entirely, on the premise that nobody liked the weather during those months and that we could avoid Winter almost completely!

Like I said, he made politics fun.

Well, his concept got me to thinking. Which, as most of my readers know, is a dangerous
thing. Mathematically, his concept didn’t quite work. It was easy to count, but it didn’t take into account things like orbital mechanics, circadian cycles, school schedules, and other mundanities like that. Face it, his Lordship was a great party leader (and one hell of a rock-and-roller) but he didn’t get into the higher math concepts all that much. Can’t says I blame him, either.

Well, around 1998 I moved to Saudi Arabia. While it is a beautiful and interesting country, it doesn’t have much in the way of entertainment (unless you actually like watching car crashes, that is). No bars, no cinemas, no theatres, etc. I got a bit bored rather quickly. So I set my mind to calculating how to make Lord Sutch’s Decimal Time concept work. It took a while, but I calculated a new concept for the clock, which was 20:100:100 instead of 24:60:60, while still sticking to a standard solar day. Then there was the Calendar. That was a bit more annoying. I did come up with a workable model,

In Roman times, there was the Julian Calendar, named for Julius Caesar (the creator of the Orange Julius). In the late 1500s, Pope Gregory the XIII (must’ve been an unlucky papacy) came up with the Gregorian Calendar. Now, thanks to the wellspring of genius that came from the late and great Lord David Sutch, we have the next concept in time measurement.

The Loonian Calendar.

Hey, it was for the Loony Party. We should get to name it.

Anyway, the Loonian Calendar corrects a number of problems with the Gregorian Calendar system. For one thing, it corrects the beginning of the year. Under the Julian Calendar, the first day of the year was the Vernal Equinox (Spring, for those of you too lazy to Google it). Yet, since it didn’t handle leap years, January the First kept creeping backward and backward, deeper and deeper into Winter. The Loonian Calendar fixes that, by “correcting” the starting point where March 22nd 2000 (AD) jumps to January 1st
2001 (LC). The fixes would not disturb birthdates or automatically age you nine months, but would have adjustments built in.

The real genius of the Loonian Calendar, though, is its reusability. You would have 13 months of 28 days each. Every month would begin and end identically. January 1st would always start on a Monday. In fact, every month would begin on Monday and end, four weeks later, on a Sunday. You would never have to “guess” what day the 15th would land on (Monday) or the 25th (Thursday) because it would always be the same, month to month. Because there would be 13 months, we’d have to come up with a name for the newest one. I decided to insert the new month between June and July, and gave it the name of Sutch, in memory and honor of our beloved founder of the OMRLP.

Now, 13 months of 28 days each still leaves us with 364 days. How do we deal with that? Well, not by foostering around with some silly “Newton Week” (sounds like a seven-day pig out on fig
cookies). For regular (non-leap) years, you’d have the last day of the year designated as “New Year’s Eve” which would follow December 28th as its own separate day. New Year’s Eve would have no day designation (Monday-Sunday), which means that you’d automatically get a 3-day weekend. Further, it would keep the rest of the calendar in sync. For Leap Years, the Gregorian model would apply (every 4th year except for centuries not divisible by 400) there would be a “Leap Year’s Day” put after December 28th but before New Year’s Eve, (4-day weekend!) to keep everything chugging along nicely from an astronomical point of view.

I sent all of this stuff out to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland, the British Standards Institution (BSI) in London, England, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in
Gaithersburg, Maryland, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in Washington, DC, the Saudi Arabian Standards Organisation (SASO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau International de Poids et Mesures (BIPM) in Sèvres, Cheese-Eating-Surrender-Monkey-Land. That was in December of 2000. I even published a press release to U.S. and U.K. news services at the same time.

Did the scientific community beat a path to my door? Did the horologists praise my more accurate clock? Did the Calendarial Connoisseurs come calling? Nope.

And yet this professor dude gets written up in NewScientist.com. It seems slightly unfair. At the very least, I’d hope to be written up in MadScientists.com.

I don’t think that Professor Henry did anything bad or wrong with his idea. It’s one of those GMTA (Great Minds Think Alike) moments.

In this case,
it was his thinking alike my great mind.

I just wish that there had been a record of all this work from 1998 and 2000, so that when scientists and researchers were looking into clocks and calendars, some mention of the Loonian system would come to the fore. Lord Sutch would have liked that little bit of immortality, I think.

Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’ll be in my room redefining the metric system.

          Related resources:
          Related article at NewRepublic Online (link opens new window)
          Right-click the icons below, to Save the Word (doc) or Palm (prc) files:
          Cover letter sent to the ISO (37KB)
          ISO proposal for the Loonian Calendar (181KB)
          Printable copy of the Loonian Calendar (142KB)
          ISO proposal for Loony Time (55KB)
          Press Release sent out in December 2000 (39KB)
          Download and install a Loony Time demo on your Palm Pilot (45KB)

About the Writer: Doc Farmer is a writer and humorist who is also a moderator on ChronWatch's Forum. He formerly lived in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but now resides in the Midwest. Doc receives e-mail at docfarmer9999@yahoo.co.uk.

This Article Was First Published In ChronWatch At: http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=12298

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