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Making time stand still

Jan 07 2012
Astrophysicist Russell Redman says calendar is "cute." 

Astrophysicist Russell Redman says calendar is "cute."

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, timescolonist.com

How would you like to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve, year after year after year, on the same two days of the week? The same goes for every other important day of the year. Even your birthday would forever fall on the same day of the week.

In what's being billed as a way to make "time stand still," researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have devised a "stable" calendar in which dates always fall on the same day of the week.

Using mathematical formulas, Richard Conn Henry, an astrophysicist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Stephen H. Hanke, an applied economist in the Whiting School of Engineering, have designed a calendar that removes fluctuations and adjustments.

Under the new calendar, September, March, June and December all have 31 days. All the rest have 30. So every quarter has two months of 30 days followed by 31.

To take care of leap years - the extra day inserted into February every four years to correct for the planetary year having 365.2422 days - the pair are suggesting an extra week, called a "Minimonth" or "Xra (extra)."

The researchers have proposed the extra week be tacked on at the end of December. It would occur every five or six years.

The researchers say their calendar provides a permanent, rational way to plan yearly activities, from school to work to holidays. It removes anomalies in the current calendar that complicate business, such as calculating annual interest and payment schedules.

But local authorities, while intrigued, are doubtful.

Geoff Young, an economist and a Victoria councillor, sees nothing but public anger, especially with the "long" years every five or six.

"Corporate executives would take credit for higher earnings in the those long years," Young said.

"And politicians would spend hours explaining to the public that they have had to raise taxes to pay salaries over the long years."

Astrophysicist Russell Redman, of the National Research Council's Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, was delighted by the mathematical neatness of the calendar, but less gungho about its usefulness.

"I have to say it's cute. I like it," Redman said. "But I don't see any overwhelming need to adopt it.

"It claims to have huge economic advantages," he said, "but I just fail to notice anything that would make business want to change."

On a spiritual level, Victoria theologian Rev. Canon Sue House is not thrilled about pegging calendar days.

House, the Anglican associate priest at Christ Church Cathedral, said with the exception of Easter, always pegged to a Sunday to mark the resurrection of Jesus, holy days can move around in the week.

A stable calendar would take away from the reality and joy of life, she said. "As a priest in the church and a Christian, Sunday is always going to be holy day of the week," she said. "But other things happen in the rest of the week that are just as holy."

> To see the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar go to henry.pha.jhu.edu/calendar.html.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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