New Year – New Calendar… But Johns Hopkins Scholars Say We Need A Permanent Edition

by Tammy Plotner on January 2, 2012

Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar - Credit: Richard Conn Henry/Johns Hopkins University

It’s another new year and time to remember to write new dates again. While it might take a few weeks to remember to do it right first time, Johns Hopkins Scholars say our traditional calendar needs a major overhaul. By utilizing computer programs and mathematical formulas, Richard Conn Henry, an astrophysicist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Steve H. Hanke, an applied economist in the Whiting School of Engineering, have devised a new calendar where each year is identical to the year before it… and the year after.

Dubbed the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, there would be no problem remembering dates. For example, if your birthday was Thursday, May 10, it would remain Thursday, May 10 throughout eternity. Can you fathom holidays always being on the same day of the week? Or a weekend date always remaining the same? All the same… Always.

“Our plan offers a stable calendar that is absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the permanent, rational planning of annual activities, from school to work holidays,” says Henry, who is also director of the Maryland Space Grant Consortium. “Think about how much time and effort are expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every single organization in the world and it becomes obvious that our calendar would make life much simpler and would have noteworthy benefits.”

Of course, it would seem rational to have certain dated functions, such as work holidays, religious holidays and even birthdays fall on the same date each year. However, according to Hanke, an expert in international economics, the monetary benefits would be the real motivation behind such a change… ones that should motivate the consumer.

“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 is the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar a true progression over various forms of permanent calendars that have been proposed before? “Attempts at reform have failed in the past because all of the major ones have involved breaking the seven-day cycle of the week, which is not acceptable to many people because it violates the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day,” Henry explains. “Our version never breaks that cycle.”

Sure, the current Gregorian calendar has been working for 430 years now. What’s the point in change? It, too, was an alteration to a calendar put forth in 46 BC by Julius Caesar to stay in sync with the changing seasons. The real problem is we humans just have to deal with a celestial calendar in which a true year is 365.2422 days long. The new calendar simply proposes we add an extra week every so often to make up for the fragmented days. But personally, I can’t see where this is any different than the concept we are already working under! If we’re adding an extra week every five or six years at the end of December, is that really any different than the few months that sport an extra day…. or leap year for that matter?

Yeah. Well, they don’t want to stop there, either. They are also in favor of doing away with world time zones by fully adopting GMT. “One time throughout the world, one date throughout the world,” they write, in a January 2012 Global Asia article about their proposals. “Business meetings, sports schedules and school calendars would be identical every year. Today’s cacophony of time zones, daylight savings times and calendar fluctuations, year after year, would be over. The economy – that’s all of us – would receive a permanent ‘harmonization’ dividend.”

Is it really harmony or just another way of putting us in neat, little boxes? Maybe we humans like our confusion. Maybe if it’s not broke, we don’t need to fix it. For those of us who practice astronomy, we already use both GMT and (in some circumstances) a Julian calendar as well. Do we really need to standardize everything? We’ve tried with money and we’ve tried with measurements. What’s next? We should all be born the same sex with exactly the same features so we can standardize the human population, too? Think of all the money that could be saved from the fashion industry alone! Then we’d need to have exactly the same tastes. That would make it ever so much easier to standardize food. No need to be wasting perfectly good dishes because one liked it and one didn’t. Maybe we all need the same sense of humor, that way we could just tell standard jokes. Perhaps we could all find exactly the same set of tones agreeable, so one song would do us all. Of course, it’s just my opinion, but…

Move over, Mr. Roboto.

Original Story Source: John Hopkins University Press Release. For further opinions and reading: Wired Science.

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: