Decimating the Fourth Dimension
At last, a sensible proposal for switching
our clocks and calendars to the metric system
by Paul Bacon
Woefully, our measurement of time still harks back to an era of crude instrumentation. The standard clock is little more than a sundial that works at night, and the yearly calendar is an ancient moon chart developed before anyone noticed the moon doesn’t have a yearly cycle.
The result: One year is divided into 12 months of 4 weeks of 7 days of 24 hours of 60 minutes of 60 seconds each.
Smoothing out this jumble of numbers will be easily achieved by switching our clocks and calendars to the metric system. By using factors of 10 as the basis for all measurement, we’ll spend less time thinking about time. We’ll have months with the same number of days, universal calendars that never go out of date and a greater percentage of people who feel in control of their lives.
TIME OF DAY
According to Anthony Aveni, author of Empires of Time, the number of hours in a day “comes perhaps” from the 12 constellations of the zodiac. As for minutes, he postulates that the number 60 “seems to have suggested itself” to ancient timekeepers because it was easily divisible into the approximately 360 days it took the sun to travel through the stars. In other words, the system is so antiquated that even someone with enough smarts to write a book about it can’t traces its origin with any certainty.
The solution: Make it metric! Instead of breaking the day up into its present 1,440 minutes, just round it out to 1,000. By making it an even thousand, the day begins at 0 and ends at 999. No big hand, no little hand. No a.m., no p.m. No military time. No more “did she say ‘ten-oh-five’ or ‘ten of five’?” Nothing but happy people going about their business: waking up at 25, getting to work at 100, taking lunch at 250, and coming home for a 500 dinner.
WEEKS AND MONTHS
Dividing the year into 12 parts based on recurring phases of the moon may have made sense a few thousand years ago, but it comes up short in ordering the activities of a modern society. To make up for the fact that the moon’s 28-day orbit is mathematically out of synch with the earth’s 365-day orbit, our months come in four different lengths: 28, 29, 30 and 31 days. This disparity defeats the purpose of a scheduling system so completely that given a specific date, we can’t tell whether it falls on a weekday or weekend without consulting a calendar.
Shifting to a more sensible, 100-day metric year is well within our reach, although it will require a bit more effort than recalibrating our clocks. Something must be done with the remaining 265 days it normally takes the earth complete its revolution around the sun. Since the concept of a year is nearly meaningless without predictable seasonal changes, these extra days cannot simply be ignored; they must be eliminated entirely. Somehow, the earth must be made to revolve more quickly, a task seemingly only achievable by Superman.
Luckily, we’ve spent much of the last century developing the technology for a more real-world solution. A centralized detonation of the world’s entire nuclear arms stockpile could provide a force sufficient to accelerate the earth into a brisk 100-day orbit. And keeping the planet from flying off into space could be accomplished by timing the explosion so that we collide with--and absorb--the Moon, adding the necessary mass required to stay the same distance from the sun while orbiting at a greater speed.
The resulting annual period would be divided into 10 months of 10 days each. The new month names will be ordinal, with Oneuary, Twouary, Threeuary, etc., replacing our grossly ambiguous month names, and day names will follow in suit, as Onesday, Twosday, Threesday, etc. Never again will we have to look at a calendar to know what day of the week a certain date falls on. Nor will we have to count on our fingers to determine, for example, how long a project will last if it starts one month and ends in another.
Because each month will be identical in length, the calendar as we know it will go the way of the slide rule. Instead of the stark grid we now use to decipher an ancient system of inconsistent moon-based time partitions, the new calendar will be round. It will be dependable and unchanging--a perfect way to ring in the new millennium at 0, Onesday the 1st of Oneuary, 2000. # # #