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Changing time: Proposed calendar would stay same, year after year

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 11:27 a.m. MST

Two professors at Johns Hopkins University want the world to drop time zones and use a "Universal Time" to line up dates and times and aid international business transactions.

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If you've ever wondered what day your birthday will fall on in, say, 2018 or even 2051, two professors at Johns Hopkins University have a plan to remove the guesswork. The astrophysicist and the economist are proposing an unchanging, permanent calendar where each year is just like the one that went before it.

Mostly.

Leap Year would be no more, Halloween would always fall on Monday, Oct. 30, and Christmas would forever be on a Sunday. Forget the childhood rhyme though. Thirty days hath not September on what's being called the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar. March, June, September and December would have 31 days. The rest would have 30. And a child born on a future Monday, "fair of face," would celebrate her birthday on Monday for life.

The variety would come every five or six years, when a weeklong "mini month" the professors call Xtr would be tacked on the calendar at the end of December to keep the seasons in sync, according to a website the two have created to promote their proposal. Xtr would occur in 2015, 2020, 2026, 2032, 2037, 2043, 2048, 2054, 2060, 2065, 2071, 2076, 2082, 2088, 2093, 2099, 2105 ....

The target date to begin worldwide adoption of the proposed calendar is this Sunday, Jan. 1. The target day to complete universal adoption is Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.

The Hanke-Henry calendar was first proposed in 2004 by Richard Conn Henry, the professor of applied physics. Last year, economics professor Steve Hanke joined the push for change, saying it could "save roughly $130 million" just by reducing the possibility of interest-calculating errors that may occur when someone doesn't count the days in the month right. Hanke calls that "ending the rip-off factor."

"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," he said.

"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," said Henry, director of the Maryland Space Grant Consortium, in a written statement. "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."

It's not as if time (change) has stood still. Angst over time, from the calendar to the number of hours of daylight, is an old story, dating back to 1582, when Pope Gregory dumped the calendar created in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. To make it match the seasons, he had a one-time, 11-day adjustment that meant folks went to bed Oct. 4 and woke up the next morning, Oct. 15. That kind of thing happens when an Earth year is an awkward 365.2422 days long. That weird number is why the leap week would be needed every five or six years.

Henry and Hanke also want the world to drop time zones and use a "Universal Time" to line up dates and times and aid international business transactions.

"One time throughout the world, one date throughout the world," they proposed for a January 2012 Global Asia article. "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.

Henry told USA Today that "the Sabbath problem" has created inertia, because so many religions require people to keep a seventh day holy. Working around that in calendar creation has proven tricky, but this solution handles it, honoring the Fourth Commandment, he noted.

The proposed calendar's website has a question-and-answer section that's hilarious or practical, depending on your viewpoint.

On the divisive question of Daylight Savings Time, everyone's a winner: "Daylight Saving Time disappears, ... but also, it stays, as changes in working hours. Time zones, such as Eastern Standard Time, still exist exactly as they do now, but are considered to be 'working hours' zones. In the Eastern Standard Time Zone, a '9-to-5' job is defined as a 14 o'clock to 22 o'clock job. The next calendar day begins at what we now call 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time zone. (On the West Coast of the U.S., the next day begins at 4 p.m.) 'Spring forward, Fall back' now means that, on the chosen day, everyone changes their work hours by one hour, but the clock time stays the same. 'See you tomorrow' refers to the sun being overhead, not the calendar," it says.

As for those born on days that would cease to exist, like Jan. 31, or during Xtr, the duo offers this counsel: "Be like Queen Elizabeth: celebrate your birthday on a date of your choosing! For people born on the vanished 31st days of months, there's a simple solution. They were born on the last day of the month, so their birthday is the last day of the month (which would be the 30th)."

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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