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Christmas Always On Sunday? Researchers Propose New Calendar 725

Posted by Soulskill
from the metric-holidays dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered a way to make time stand still — at least when it comes to the yearly calendar. Using computer programs and mathematical formulas, an astrophysicist and an economist have created a new calendar in which each new 12-month period is identical to the one which came before, and remains that way from one year to the next in perpetuity."
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Christmas Always On Sunday? Researchers Propose New Calendar

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  • Christmas (Score:3, Funny)

    by Aighearach (97333) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:05PM (#38508488) Homepage

    is not for grinches, you can't have my day off.

    • by Aighearach (97333) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:13PM (#38508586) Homepage

      ... except equinoxes and solstices...

      • by treeves (963993)

        But they're not on the same day every year now, so not a big deal.
        Oh, and Easter wouldn't be on the same day every year either, due to the moon.

        • by pz (113803) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:57PM (#38510402) Journal

          Um, you might want to check that. Equinoxes (and solstices) mostly are. The only variability is because the terrestrial orbit is about 1/4 day longer than an integral number of days, but the effects of that are kept to a minimum due to leap years. We have an approximately astronomical calendar.

          That the 7-day social cycle doesn't fit into the 365 day calendar is the source of most of the perceived and actual variation in dates (eg, American Thanksgiving is always a Thursday, President's Day is always a Monday, etc., which means those dates will never be the same from one year to the next), in addition to events which are determined by lunar cycle (like Easter, Passover, or Ramadan) which also doesn't neatly fit the terrestrial orbital period.

          But as for equinoxes and solstices, they're mostly stable, varying by date only between two neighboring days. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox [wikipedia.org] .

    • Go one better ... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhudson (43916)

      If youre going to have Christmas on Sunday, make every day a Saturday.
      Nobody gets the "lunch-bag letdown" of disappointment Christmas day.
      No big post-Christmas debts for stuff that broke within hours.
      No going to work - ever - unless you work on Saturdays.
      No having to take the garbage out Sunday night for Monday morning ... ummm ... on second thought, that kind of stinks ...

      Conclusion?

      Don't you DARE! You already screwed it up enough messing with Daylight Savings Time!

  • Eff that... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:06PM (#38508494)

    My birthday would always be on Monday.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:06PM (#38508506)

    How about we work on the adoption of the metric system first. It makes more sense and means more in the long run.

    • by CaptainLard (1902452) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:33PM (#38508864)
      We almost got there in the late 70's. Fortunately, Reagan swooped in to save us from having to drive 370 kilosocialists from DC to NY. But you're in luck. If you really want to use the metric system exclusively in the US, just join the military ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrication_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org] )
      • by joggle (594025) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:03PM (#38509774) Homepage Journal

        It's funny. The military, in some ways, is the most progressive part of the American government. Where was metric first widely adopted? Where was racial integration first introduced? Where did we first phase out the use of pennies?

        Cut the politicians out of the bureaucracy and you can actually make some progress.

        • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:03PM (#38510458)

          Not to mention, who is actually making progress eliminating dependence on fossil fuels?

          If we won't do it for the environment, at least we'll do it for national security...

        • by pmontra (738736) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @03:37AM (#38512840) Homepage

          The military (in any country) are driven by matters of life and death which trump merely economic matters. If the US military goes metric it's a hint that metric is superior to imperial units. I remember I read that Napoleon forced the metric system into his army because it let his artillery perform ballistic calculations faster than the enemy (*).
          It should be easy to see why using only base 10 for both counting and measuring is better than mixing base 10, base 4, base 8, base 12 and maybe a few others I miss because of ignorance (I've been living all my life in a metric country).

          (*) After a little googling I found the web page where I read that. It's about the physics of motorsport http://www.getfaster.com/Techtips/Physics6.html [getfaster.com] so it's not an authoritative source for historical matters but it's a clear example of why metric is better.
          I quote

          It is worthwhile to note, as an aside, that a great deal of the difficulty of doing calculations in the physics of racing has to do with the traditional units of feet, miles, and pounds we use. The metric system makes all such calculations vastly simpler. Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to convert the world the metric system (mostly so his own soldiers could do artillery calculations quickly in their heads) but it is still not in common use in America nearly 200 years later!

          Plenty of examples are provided there.

    • Socialist pig! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RobinEggs (1453925) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:36PM (#38508906)

      How about we work on the adoption of the metric system first.

      Never gonna happen. There are too many politically conservative idiots, like my mom, who believe attempts at converting to metric represent a "socialist" conspiracy, and almost literally scream at any attempt to remove Imperial units in favor of metric.

      Socialist? The fucking metric system? Seriously?

      The government already tried to phase in metric sometime in the 1970s, if I recall, emphasizing it in schools and installing additional signage on highways with metric speeds and distances. People responded to this with caterwauling and by shooting the road signs into tatters. Dave Barry summed up the final results the best:

      Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet.

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:51PM (#38509088)

        And that is what it takes. The government loves metric, all government contracts are done in metric (like surveying and so on, something I worked in for a time). However they won't ram it down people's throats which is what you have to do. People will whine and bitch. Hell my grandpa STILL whines and bitches sometimes. He's Canadian and over 80 years old so he remembers when Canada was on the Imperial system. He still uses it often when talking about various things.

        I also can understand people's resistance, to an extent, because for normal activities it isn't helpful. Metric really only starts to show you how cool it is when you do things like inter-unit conversions. Things like "How much energy will I need to boil a liter of water?" and so on. For every day use, all you need is to have a sense of how much a unit is. Buying meat is no harder or easier in pounds or kilograms, you just need to have a sense for how much each is so you can ask for an appropriate amount.

        Thus it remains a hard sell, and so the government has to force it if they want to make it happen. At a federal level, that is pretty well impossible.

        • by next_ghost (1868792) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:16PM (#38509330)

          For every day use, all you need is to have a sense of how much a unit is.

          Here's a handy guide [xkcd.com].

        • by iroll (717924) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:09PM (#38509840) Homepage

          Just out of curiosity, are you Canadian? And was Canada surveyed entirely using metes and bounds? Because I suppose I could see an SI conversion being made with that sort of system.

          While the US government also specifies most things in SI (and in fact, SI is the law of the land), surveying will probably be the last bastion of the old Customary system.

          The PLSS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Land_Survey_System) was an extremely forward-looking and rational surveying system for its era, and almost the entire continental US uses it. All real estate, all farm and ranch development, all city and suburb development follows the grid established by the PLSS. County maps in most of the midwest look like a checkerboard because of it. In Phoenix, for example, all of the streets are laid on the original survey lines. This grid is so firmly established as a part of our economy and legal system, that there's not a snowball's chance in hell of it being switched to SI in my lifetime, and I'm a rather young man.

          Even if GPS uses SI internally, it's hardly any effort for a computer to make the conversion for its human user. It would, however, be an exercise in masochism to require surveyors and the government land offices to stop using increments and fractions of 1 mile and pretend that the grid is actually based on increments of 1609 meters.

        • by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:52PM (#38510852)

          I think it could be done if it was done unit-by-unit. Start with volume - we already buy 2 liter sodas, replacing the lingering pint, quart and gallon items shouldn't be hard.

          Then, distance. Most people use it in terms of speed - miles per hour - to stay within (or mostly within) speed limits. Simply change all the limits to metric, the other uses of the mile will follow.

          Temperature will be the hardest, since there's few personal reasons to switch. Save it for last, so you can make the argument that "this is the last one holding us back".

          Remember, the US has been teaching kids metric for decades. Most of my generation would be fine with metrication. It would take some getting used to, but we know the theory at least, even if I don't know how to estimate in it well. It's just the older generations that are more reluctant, that are holding us back. Once the baby boomers start dying off, I bet we'll see quite a bit of progress being made on this front.

      • by slash.dt (701002) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:13PM (#38509302)

        Never gonna happen. There are too many politically conservative idiots, like my mom, who believe attempts at converting to metric represent a "socialist" conspiracy, and almost literally scream at any attempt to remove Imperial units in favor of metric. Socialist? The fucking metric system? Seriously?

        How about approaching it by telling those same people that using Imperial units is propagating the British rule over America and until it is dropped, the US will never be truely free?

    • by wkk2 (808881)

      Metric won't happen without a really big stick. Fuel pumps would probably change in less than 24 hours if there was a 1% tax on sales measured in gallons.

  • In a nutshell: (Score:5, Informative)

    by White Flame (1074973) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:09PM (#38508540)

    Jan 1 = Sunday, 30 days
    Feb 1 = Tuesday, 30 days
    Mar 1 = Thursday, 31 days

    Apr 1 = Sunday, 30 days
    May 1 = Tuesday, 30 days
    Jun 1 = Thursday, 31 days ...

    Then every 5-6 years, there's a leap *week* at the end of the year after December called Xtr, so Xtr 1, 2015 through Xtr 7, 2015 would exist as valid dates (in whatever order your country uses).

    • I believe that is what the Egypt- based cultures do already. Typically they have 28 day months, with a catch-up month every 7 years when the constellations are a whole month early.

      Of course in almost all the cultures that do that the extra month is timed so that it can be a "celebration" month... Our current culture would never handle 4 whole weeks of shutdown like that.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Our culture can't even seem to handle an entire day anymore. That's a real shame considering that it REALLY needs to take some time to reflect once in a while.

      • by treeves (963993)

        Ethiopian calendar has thirteen months, with the thirteenth month being variable length and only a week or so long, IIRC, in order to do this.
        They also are on a different year number than the Gregorian calendar, about seven years behind I believe. I went there in 2008 and found that Y2k had been the previous year in Ethiopia.

    • by linatux (63153) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:37PM (#38508912)

      Simply adjust the earth's orbit so we have exactly 360 days on a year!

    • Re:In a nutshell: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by s0litaire (1205168) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:20PM (#38509370)

      they should have called it "Smarch" instead of "Xtr"

      "Lousy Smarch Weather!!" Homer Simpson

    • by PRMan (959735)

      Xtr? What the heck kind of a month name is that? Was this made by C programmers or something?

      Call it Undecember (following the September, October, November, December pattern) or Obam (following the July, August pattern) or Jeez (following the gods pattern) or at least spell out Extra.

    • Re:In a nutshell: (Score:5, Informative)

      by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:44PM (#38509580)

      I remember a lecture where they went over why the months have the number of days they do. I'm not sure this is entirely accurate but at least it helps me remember what months have how many days.

      It was a 10 month calendar where it alternated between 31 and 30 days and started in March (Mars) which was the start of nice battle weather and ended in December and they just didn't bother counting the days in winter and waiting for spring to arrive. Eventually January and February were added to the end. to get this.

      1 March 31
      2 April 30
      3 May 31
      4 June 30
      5 Quintilis 31
      6 Sextilis 30
      7September 31
      8 October 30
      9 November 31
      10 December 30
      11 January 31
      12 February 28 basically whatever was left over.

      Notice the first 4 months are named after Gods. So when Julius Cesear came to power he renamed the 5th Month July after himself. Then they also changed the order so it started with January.
      Then Augustus came to power and took the 6th month. But he didn't want his month to be shorter so he changed it to 31 days and changed the rest of the months
      to alternate from 30 to 31.

      So that is why the months have the number of days they have.

    • Re:In a nutshell: (Score:4, Informative)

      by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:52PM (#38509662)

      They appear to have discovered the World Calendar [wikipedia.org], a calendar proposed almost a century ago. The only noticeable difference is that they shifter which month had the 31 days.

      I don't know how anyone goes about researching something new without first exploring what has been done before. It's not a great show of research prowess on their behalf.

    • Re:In a nutshell: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gstrickler (920733) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:25PM (#38510674)

      Works great, except for those pesky solstices and equinoxes.

      Oh, and that leap week every 5th-6th December, is that a work week? Will New Years be 2 weeks after Christmas some years?

      And then there is that pesky problem of birthdays. If you were born on Jan 31, May 31, July 31, Aug 31, or Oct 31 (Gregorian), what is your birthdate on the new calendar? What about people born during a leap week? How do you determine their ages for legal purposes?

      When would we celebrate Halloween?

      And what about interest calculations when there is a leap week? That's gonna mess with some mortgages and other loans. They claim it solves the interest problem, but clearly it doesn't.

      As another said, "Simply adjust the earth's orbit so we have 360 days in a year". Well, actually, 364 days a year would work better. And while we're at it, adjust the moon's orbit to exactly 28 days. Those would solve the real issues and give us a truly consistent calendar. Until then, let's live with the messy calendar we have.

      As for eliminating time zones, that's an even bigger mess. At least now when you calculate that it's 1am in another time zone, you know with some level of certainty that it's not a good time to phone. Meal times, work schedules, etc would all change with what we now call "time zones", so it would be more confusing, but wouldn't eliminate time-zones at all.

    • Re:In a nutshell: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nabsltd (1313397) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:37PM (#38510766)

      Then every 5-6 years, there's a leap *week* at the end of the year after December

      Which is why everybody above about 40 degrees north would hate this calendar, and instead want the extra days at the end of June.

  • by GeneralTurgidson (2464452) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:15PM (#38508604)
    Have fun reprogramming everything, developers!
  • by rminsk (831757) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:15PM (#38508606)

    ...have created a new calendar in which each new 12-month period is identical to the one which came before, and remains that way from one year to the next in perpetuity.

    and then later in the article

    This adjustment was necessary in order to deal with the same knotty problem that makes designing an effective and practical new calendar such a challenge: the fact that each Earth year is 365.2422 days long. Hanke and Henry deal with those extra “pieces” of days by dropping leap years entirely in favor of an extra week added at the end of December every five or six years.

    So it does not remain consistant from one year to the next.

  • by supersat (639745) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:15PM (#38508608)
    First they say:

    "Our calendar would simplify financial calculations and eliminate what we call the 'rip off' factor," explains Hanke. "Determining how much interest accrues on mortgages, bonds, forward rate agreements, swaps and others, day counts are required. Our current calendar is full of anomalies that have led to the establishment of a wide range of conventions that attempt to simplify interest calculations. Our proposed permanent calendar has a predictable 91-day quarterly pattern of two months of 30 days and a third month of 31 days, which does away with the need for artificial day count conventions."

    But then they go on to say:

    Hanke and Henry deal with those extra âoepiecesâ of days by dropping leap years entirely in favor of an extra week added at the end of December every five or six years. This brings the calendar in sync with the seasonal changes as the Earth circles the sun.

    Sounds like they're just shifting the complexity.

    • by pclminion (145572)
      Why is it complex? Just pretend the extra week didn't happen (in effect, we all go on vacation that week).
    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      Sounds like they're just shifting the complexity.

      Exactly! The complexity of the solution is dependent on the complexity of the problem. Therefore, if the solution is simpler than the problem, there will be edge cases that are unaccounted for, and the solution will fail in areas. The solution to the calendar year depends on the complexity of the revolution versus the rotation, and no amount of attempts to simplify a fractional response will result in an integer response. (Not completely obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com]...)

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:18PM (#38508656) Homepage

    There have been many calendar-reform systems proposed, and "leap-weeks" are a common solution. Wikipedia has an article on leap week calendars [wikipedia.org] and lists five advantages and three disadvantages. It, in turn, points to a web page about leap week calendars [hermetic.ch] that details nine of them.

    Henry's own web page [jhu.edu] doesn't mention the existence of other leap week calendars. It merely says the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar is better than the Gregorian calendar, not why it is better than the nine other leap week calendars. And it doesn't seem to present any particular plan for getting it adopted, beyond saying "It CAN be done, folks, and the decision is YOURS, not mine. Each of you," and the proof that it's feasible is that his mother has adapted to quoting Celsius temperatures. But what's needed is not a better calendar, but a better plan than anyone has heretofore come up with for getting it adopted.

  • 13 Months? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawks5999 (588198) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:19PM (#38508664)
    I've thought that 13 months with 4 weeks each would be so much better. Every year is missing a "day" but it could just be a New Year's Day holiday. The benefit of having a day always being a date would make so many things so much easier. Is humanity past fearing the number 13 so much that we could have a rational calendar?
    • by Skapare (16644)

      Why do we even need months?

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:27PM (#38508756)
    Slow (or speed) the Earth's revolution around the Sun until it takes 360 (or 372) days. Problem solved.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:27PM (#38508764)

    What about all of the poor schmucks whose birthday always winds up on a Wednesday, every year, for the rest of their lives?

  • by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:33PM (#38508858) Homepage

    We don't need months. Just use quarters and call them seasons. Months were traditionally periods of lunar cycles, and aside from certain religious calendars, is really no well aligned with lunar cycles at all. Fundamentally, we just don't need them.

  • Time Zones... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lt.Hawkins (17467) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:34PM (#38508872) Homepage

    Eh, not bad at first glance, but I can't be on board with zapping time zones. As someone who deals with international locations across the globe every single day, its a ton easier to find out "oh, they're 8 hours behind us" vs "Hmm, its 0900 Global. We just had lunch... what are they doing in New York at this time? Its 0900 there too - I think its still dark, but I don't know if its close to dawn or if they just woke up."

    Sounds good in theory, but god it would suck.

    • Re:Time Zones... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rtaylor (70602) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:55PM (#38510372) Homepage

      With most cities daylight hours aren't actually enough anyway. A large enough percentage of the population works non-standard schedules that you need their specific waking/working hours.

      Same for business. Lots of cities have restrictions on activities during the day and only take deliveries overnight.

      As people move more and more to a non-farming schedule timezones become less relevant because "daylight hours" simply don't matter. Knowing that they are available from 17:00 to 9:00 is enough. You don't need to take their 12:00pm to 4:00am then convert to your local time.

  • no authority (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dltaylor (7510) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:38PM (#38508940)

    Who, in the modern world, has George Carlin's ("I have as much authority as the pope; just fewer people believe it.") moxie to force a calendar change? The Muslim, probably conservative Jewish, and other lunar calendar followers aren't going to change (what if THEY all got together and proposed a "universal" calendar?). Americans still aren't rational enough to switch to the metric system of measurement, so they're going to use a more-rational calendar than their current?

  • The Shire Calendar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wfmcwalter (124904) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:00PM (#38509738) Homepage

    The most elegant solution to the calendar I've seen is JRR Tolkien's (yes, him) Shire Calendar [wikipedia.org]:

    • It's fully conformant with the astronomical realities (no magical even-divisions or date fudging necessary)
    • There are still 12 months (so no weird decimal months, no 34th of Thermidor bollocks). You can stick with the familiar month names (rather than Tolkien's Hobbity ones)
    • Each month is 30 days long (simplifying accounting, pay calculations, holiday accrual etc.). No pointless variation, no mnemonics.
    • Year on year, a given month always begins with the same day of the week. Even for leap years. So if you were born on a Tuesday, your birthday will always be Tuesday.
    • The clever part (which allows all the other stuff to happen) is there is a winter festival holiday (2 days) and a summer festival holiday (3 days normally, 4 in leap years). These aren't week days and aren't in a month - they're special. So e.g. Christmas doesn't change between sometimes being in the weekend, or adjacent to the weekend, or midweek - Christmas is always in the same place. I know I always get disoriented around Christmas - Christmas already seems like a special day which doesn't resemble a Thursday or a Sunday or whatever - the Shire Calendar is just a realistic expression that it's not a weekday, and that it shouldn't be regarded as one. And the first day back at work after Christmas is always a Monday.
    • The winter and summer festivals are pretty consonant with common practice in many countries anyway. Move Christmas into the yule holiday (Jesus wasn't born in December anyway, so it's no less Biblically correct than current practice). Many countries have a midsummer festival or summer bank holiday and US independence day can be celebrated then.
    • You only need one printed calendar (not the 14 different types we currently need) - you just score off the leap year or not.
    • Its easy to fix the locations of other festivals, like Thanksgiving, and then you get a perfectly consistent gap between e.g. Thanksgiving and Christmas
    • From a software perspective it's a wash - 2 more mini-months need to be handled, but less bother with differently lengthed months and much easier day-of-the-week calculations.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

Working...