The Great War began 100 years ago, but it still feels like part of our world. First, because the outcome of that war shaped the rest of the twentieth century, and framed many of our current obsessions. But also because most of us are only once-removed from the action. I was born relatively late in the twentieth century, yet I met and was photographed with a great-grandfather who fought on the Western Front. Many of us will have spoken to relatives who remember the conflict (even if they were not combatants).
The centenary of the war is a landmark moment that prompts me to ponder how history is like a concertina. Sometimes, events feel very close; at other times, they are incredibly far away. We often get a shock when we realise that an event we think of as quite recent is actually ‘history’ (today, for example, Twitter is in shock that ‘Everybody Want To Rule The World’ by Tears For Fears is thirty years old). Continue reading
The clocks go back tonight, as the United Kingdom switches back to Greenwich Mean Time for the winter.
This human, cultural manipulation of time reminds me of the idea of the International Fixed Calendar. This is a thirteen month calendar, with each month having 28 days. This means that days and dates always match up (the 1st of the month is always a Monday, &ct). As well as making arrangements (or any date based task easier) the International Fixed Calendar makes rent, interest, mortgage, salary and other monthly payments consistent and therefore fairer.
13 times 28 equals 364, one day short of a solar year. To solve this problem, the calendar adds an extra day that sits outside the seven day week or the thirteen month system. Since 366 day leap years would still be required to keep the calendar in sync with the Earth’s orbit, every four years you would get not one but two extra-calendrical days.
Late last year, researchers at Johns Hopkins University scored a bit of a media hit with their Hanke-Henry Calendar. They solved the 365 problem by saving up the extra days and the leap days, and then scheduling a leap weak every four or five years! I prefer the International Fixed Calendar however, because we like to compare seasonal and weather conditions year-on-year. It is important to be able to compare the same date over several years and know you are also comparing the same point in the Earth’s orbit too. Continue reading