Time is arbitrary in a sense. Of course, we have divided the time (measured) it takes the earth to make one rotation into 24 segments, and we’ve further divided those 24 segments into 60 segments and further sub-divided those 60 segments into 60 segments. We could have divided that bit in any way we wished (and some cultures do). But, otherwise, every day takes pretty much the same “time” for one complete spin on this ol’ big blue marble.
And, as you know, we have long recognized the time it takes for the earth to make one big trip around our star and call that amount of time a year. Now, here’s where things get tricky.
That journey happens while the earth spins; it takes 365.2422 days for that to occur. That’s 5 hours, 48 minutes, 43 seconds in the .2422 you see there. That means about every four years, we add a whole ‘nother day (as we’d say in Alabama) to the year to keep everything sort of “on track” and on season. If we didn’t add that extra day, the “leap day” to the calendar, we would eventually have summer in February in the northern hemisphere. That’s what caused Pope Gregory to change the old Roman (Julian) calendar and shake up the number of leap years we have to compensate for the way that Julian calendar had failed to keep pace with the accurate days (that .2422 above) it takes the earth to orbit. The Gregorian calendar, when it was instituted in Catholic Europe, fast forwarded the date 13 days to make up for all the lost leap day years the Julian calendar had not observed. It made our time keeping better, although the Eastern Orthodox Church still observes the Julian Calendar (it’s why their Christmas is a different date–and their Easter as well). In fact, the whole Christian system of dating things Anno Domini, the thing about it being 2022, well that’s is enough for a post all its own, so we will save that for later. And we haven’t even talked about months yet.
So. “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31…except for February, which has 28, until leap year brings 29.” What kind of cockamamie system is this? Again, we have the Romans to thank for this in part. They added July for Julius (Julius’s birth month) and August for Augustus (the month Augustus took Egypt). The Romans changed month names fairly regularly. They even re-started time with the change in every emperor. People complained that they had to get used to a whole new set of month names periodically and then a whole new yearly system when an emperor died or was overthrown. But they got used to it.
If we would add a month, say Millsonary or Charly (rhymes with July), and make each month have 28 days, we’d come out with an almost perfect year: 365 divided by 13 yields 28.0769. And some cultures have 13 month calendars; these are usually lunar calendars that follow the moon’s phases across the 4 weeks.
Ah, there we go–weeks. Now, that one is arbitrary, right? Well, yes. The seven day week is more of a Bible thingy than an actual, observable scientific phenomenon. There’s nothing about the earth’s rotation on its axis or its movement around the sun or the movement of the moon around the earth that is dependent on a 7 day week. Or a week for that matter.
And when should the year begin? That, too, is arbitrary. We have decided it’s January 1st, but there’s nothing saying that it has to be–or that it has always been that way. The Romans did it that way. They had a 12 month calendar year that began then, and that’s the main reason we do it, too. But, then, if you’re in business or in most state and federal government offices, you know that your fiscal year begins July 1. It could start any day, actually.
Let’s end this little look at time with two proposals. First, I propose that every year starts over and starts with January 1st being on a Sunday. That way, you will know that every year has a May 23rd that is on a Wednesday. It is a fix-ed calendar with no guesswork to it. The leap day is added at the end, which doesn’t matter, because the next day then automatically resets at Sunday, January 1st.
The second proposal is about time. I propose a 24 hour world-wide clock. In other words, when it is 10 o’clock in Dubai, it is 10 o’clock everywhere in the world. No more time zones. Billions of dollars and much time will be saved by not having to calculate Greenwich Mean Time verses China Standard Time verses Central Standard Time. Ok, some places will have 10 o’clock in the middle of the night, but you’ll get used to it.
Just ask the Romans.
Happy New Year.