Alternative Calendars

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Alternative Calendars

Postby jpopes43 » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:17 am UTC

I wasn't quite sure where to put this thread, but I guess Science fits best.

Anyways, I came across some information while reading on a calendar called the Sol calendar. I've long thought that the months in the Gregorian calendar are fairly irritating, so I thought an alternative system was interesting. The Sol calendar consists of 13 months (All of our normal months and Sol between June and July) of 28 days each and one day that's not technically in a month, which can be placed anywhere, but I like the idea of putting it as the first day of the year. The leap-year system is still employed, and Leap Day becomes December 29.

I thought the most interesting part of the system was that all of the days of the week remain the same through the entire year. I even came across one person who proposed naming the months Ace, Two, Three and so on up through Jack, Queen, and King, then naming the weeks in each month after the suits in bridge order, so as opposed to saying Tuesday, March 13, you could say Tuesday, Three of Hearts.

So, has anyone else come across an alternate calendar system that they thought was interesting?
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby EricH » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:33 am UTC

I read of a similar system--four seasons of 13 weeks each, with the extra day and the leap day tacked on at the end. Taking that extra day (or two days) out of the normal rotation is what ensures that all the dates stay on the same day of the week.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Sockmonkey » Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:39 pm UTC

As long as you're doing that we may as well make the first day of the year the solstice.

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby jpopes43 » Sat Jun 12, 2010 2:18 pm UTC

Hmm. That's an interesting idea, although it would make it more difficult to transition in from our current calendar. And also the year numbers would get screwed up somewhere.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Thesh » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:01 pm UTC

I've worked with a 4-4-5 fiscal calendar before. The year is divided into quarters, and in our case the fiscal year started near January first. The first two fiscal months of each quarter have 4 weeks, starting on Saturday in our case, and then the third month has 5 weeks. It does not tie in directly with the Gregorian calendar, and sometimes fiscal years start a few days before or after the start of the calendar year. What's nice about this is every quarter has exactly thirteen weeks and it never gets too far off of the Gregorian calendar (it was also extremely easy to write a function in SQL to map fiscal months/quarters to calendar dates).

Personally, I think we should get away from basing years off the number of times the earth revolves around the sun; I know it's nice to have months match to seasons, but then you have to deal with leap years. 10 days in a week. 10 weeks in a month, 10 months in a year (you know how much simpler that would be to code date/time functions?).
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Xanthir » Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:57 am UTC

Moving to a 13-month calendar is one way to reconcile our various date units. It's not the best way, though, in my opinion. It leaves us with so many ugly numbers - 7, 13, 28. None of these are good numbers to work with mentally.

Rather than changing the length of the month to gain some regularity, consider changing the length of the week. NewCal is a proposal written by a friend of mine to move to a 5-day week. We keep 12 months, each with 30 days (and thus 6 weeks). After every second month (Feb, April, June, Aug, Oct) we have a "free" day - a Sunday outside of the normal months, though you can also consider it the 31st day of the month. Leap years gives December a Sunday as well.

The advantages of this calendar over a week-centric one should be obvious. The numbers involved are *much* simpler and more convenient - 5, 6, 12, 30. It also stays closer to the current calendar; at its furthest divergence the New Calendar is 4 days off of the old.

There are some fortuitous coincidences with the New Calendar, too. Several major holidays fall right near Sundays, so it's convenient to shift them slightly to coincide.

The only wrinkle with it is the work week. Maintaining 4 work-days per week is obviously not a great solution - you'd lose some of your leisure time (less than half - though you have only 1 weekend per week, you've got 20 extra weeks, plus Sundays). The suggested solution is to either have the convention of half-day Fridays, or move to an alternating 3/4 day workweek. On the 1st, 3rd, 5th weeks of each month, work 4 days; on the 2nd, 4th, and 6th work 3 days. Either way gets you an 113 weekend days, compared to the 104 of the current calendar.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby PM 2Ring » Sun Jun 13, 2010 4:52 am UTC

Here's a recent thread from SB which discusses alternative calendars.
http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=58776

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby ikrase » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:00 am UTC

There was the French Revolution calender. All the weeks were 10 days and there were a different number of months if I'm not correct.

My idea for the distant future is to measure time in powers of 10 of seconds. Eventually that will be needed, what with multiple out-of-sync planets and dayless space colonies
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Xanthir » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:59 am UTC

That's really easy, actually. A kilosecond is about 15 minutes, a megasecond is about a week and a half, and a giga second is about 30 years. One normal day is about 90 ks (86.4, to be exact), and a normal year is about 30 Ms.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Goemon » Thu Jun 24, 2010 4:49 am UTC

I think I'd prefer six days per week, six weeks per month, ten months per year. That leaves five (or sometimes six) extra days each year that can be distributed every other month. Four day work weeks, nice round numbers.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Tirian » Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:24 am UTC

jpopes43 wrote:Hmm. That's an interesting idea, although it would make it more difficult to transition in from our current calendar. And also the year numbers would get screwed up somewhere.


It's so not a huge deal to switch that it is actually in co-existence all around you. I've worked in several fast food chains, and they all seem to use this system. To be more precise, instead of having leap days every year they store them up for a leap week when they've got seven in the bank, and the business year starts on the first Monday on or after January 1. And that dovetails well with the Gregorian calendar but is more relevant to day-to-day business. I mean, you don't want to track yesterday's sales against every other June 23, but it is relevant to compare it against the Wednesday of every other Week 25. And if you divide the weeks into thirteen months, then you can track this month's sales against last month's without having to stop and consider that this month was longer or that month had more Saturdays or what have you.

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Coffee » Thu Jun 24, 2010 3:04 pm UTC

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby teach1279 » Thu Dec 05, 2013 8:00 pm UTC

By making two days, known to everyone, both unnumbered and unnamed with a traditional name for a day of the week, we get a 28-day month 13 times a year calendar that is extraordinarily easy to use and remember. Lets start the 1st, 8th,15th and 22d days of the first month, say, starting with what has been Jan 1, 2014, by calling them Mondays. Lets toss into the waste bin of history all these meaningless month names based on either Roman gods, ruthless emperors who met bad ends, or Latin names for numbers, and substitute for them the names of seasonal trees (following an ancient Celtic tradit6ion) so that the month names have ecological emphasis. The tree names should be optional, appropriate to each nation. I suggest for the United States 13 trees from North America ; Fir, Spruce, Cedar, Maple, Ash, Oak, Apple, Cherry, Peach, Hickory, Elm, Chestnut, and winding up the year with the glorious Redwood.

The following is based upon what should be the beginning of the year, the Winter Solstice, now December 21. It could be Monday, Fir 1 -- every year.
Unnumbered Halloween would become between Saturday, Chestnut 6, and Sunday, Chestnut 7 -- every year. Unnumbered Leap Year Day would come every four years, mostly, nominally on Feb 29, but here at the end of the week of Cedar 8, and the day before Monday, Cedar 15. One week every year and one week every 4 years contain 8 days. So what? What natural law states that every week must have 7 days. This kind of calendar has been seriously proposed before by prominent people and even a commission, but it has always been blocked by religious people who think that the moon's continuous motion require a continuous flow of the days of the week. Isn't it time for we like minded people to mount a serious effort to rid ourselves and the world of this outworn, hoary and threadbare tradition? It's complicated and loved only by those elitists who love to mystify and hoodwink.

Not everything can be counted as the Greeks discovered when they tried to make the square root of two from a single ratio of two counting numbers. It can't be done. It takes two ratios, one an upper limit and the other a lower limit. As well, moderns have discovered transcendental numbers like pi and e can't even be solved by polynomial equations as roots can be. Another kind of scientifically established uncountable number. So let our two unnumbered days relate to these uncountable numbers and form our justification for this change.

Interestingly, Friday the 13th is banished from this calendar. It just doesn't happen. The 13th of every month is a Saturday. That's how easy this calendar is to use.

I would like to hear from anyone who would be prepared to undertake the enormous task of getting this world into a better frame of mind in this simple way.

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby thoughtfully » Fri Dec 06, 2013 6:39 pm UTC

You should do something about the days of the week, too. Those are named for Norse gods. At least in English.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Tass » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:25 pm UTC

Those schemes with 52 weeks in groups of 13 and 4 kinda suggest naming them after playing cards.

thoughtfully wrote:You should do something about the days of the week, too. Those are named for Norse gods. At least in English.


Which is awesome.

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby eternauta3k » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:50 pm UTC

First day of the year should be an equinox, to have some degree of North-South symmetry.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby zukenft » Sat Dec 07, 2013 4:30 am UTC

i don't know why changing calendars is harder than changing measurement systems. what is it that make a 7-day week so ingrained to human culture? even the Javanese calendar always combine its 5-day week with the usual 7 days to make a 35-day cycle.

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Sizik » Sat Dec 07, 2013 6:55 am UTC

zukenft wrote:what is it that make a 7-day week so ingrained to human culture?


The Bible, and the fact that it's been in continuous use since the 4th century.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Diadem » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:32 pm UTC

jpopes43 wrote:I thought the most interesting part of the system was that all of the days of the week remain the same through the entire year. I even came across one person who proposed naming the months Ace, Two, Three and so on up through Jack, Queen, and King, then naming the weeks in each month after the suits in bridge order, so as opposed to saying Tuesday, March 13, you could say Tuesday, Three of Hearts.

This is from the book "The Solitaire Mystery" by Jostein Gaarder (of Sophie's World fame). It's a long time since I read it, but the protagonist ends up on an island inhabited by living playing cards (or perhaps the people represent playing cards. Like I said, it's along time ago). They have a calendar with 13 months of 4 weeks each. Every week is named after a card, except the Joker who only gets 1 day every year, a fact he's none too happy about.

I have always liked the system. 13 months, 28 days each. The year starts on what is now 21 march, the spring equinox. The last day of the year is the extra day. The symmetry would be best if this day belonged to no month, but practically it's probably easier to make it the last day of the last month. The leap day every 4 years should happen on the fall equinox.

Of course that's still a band-aid solution. The real solution is the speed up the earth so that a year takes exactly 364 days, instead of this silly 365.24219 days. Alternatively you could slow down the earth's rotation.

Sizik wrote:
zukenft wrote:what is it that make a 7-day week so ingrained to human culture?

The Bible, and the fact that it's been in continuous use since the 4th century.

The ancient Babylonians actually. The 7-day week was ancient by the time the bible was written. Not all cultures have them though. Check wikipedia for details.

It's hard to find something better. 365 is a lousy number. Perhaps 11 months of 3 11-day weeks each? With both equinoxes as special days?
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby lorb » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:33 am UTC

Diadem wrote:It's hard to find something better. 365 is a lousy number. Perhaps 11 months of 3 11-day weeks each? With both equinoxes as special days?


Make even years have 360 days and odd years 370 or something like that. This way you can keep seasons and months aligned and still get a better number of days.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Flumble » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:47 am UTC

Diadem wrote:Of course that's still a band-aid solution. The real solution is the speed up the earth so that a year takes exactly 364 days, instead of this silly 365.24219 days. Alternatively you could slow down the earth's rotation.

Something tells me you're an engineer. :P
To be honest, I do agree that a planetary propulsion system can solve a lot of problems related to Earth's (and we could fix the Moon while we're at it) spins and accelerations. But you can't get the funding.

jpopes43 wrote:and one day that's not technically in a month, which can be placed anywhere, but I like the idea of putting it as the first day of the year. The leap-year system is still employed, and Leap Day becomes December 29.

I'd put the extra day as the transitioning between* two years and a leap day as an extra transitioning day, so there's no excuse for partying for 2 days and hogging oliebollen.

*ouch, databases won't like that. Fine, put it at the end of the year, so you can acquire months by integer division and weeks by modulo. Though, in common use you should refer to the first half of the transitioning period as the previous year and the second half as the next year if not between two years.

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:31 am UTC

Tass wrote:
thoughtfully wrote:You should do something about the days of the week, too. Those are named for Norse gods. At least in English.
Which is awesome.
Sure, but teach1279 complained about the Roman names for months, so presumably wouldn't be a fan of the translations of Roman names for days.

In Portuguese the weekdays are just numbered, but if the numbered months (September through December) need to change, then perhaps days should get something more creative as well?
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby PM 2Ring » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:56 am UTC

Here's an interesting discussion on year length by astronomer Duncan Steel.
How Britain got the Calendar Wrong.

As I've said in other calendar threads, my personal preference is for a soli-lunar calendar that keeps in sync with both the seasons and the phases of the Moon. However, such calendars require the use of leap months: some years have 12 months, some have 13. I suspect that it would be difficult to get popular support for such a calendar. :)

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:35 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:I have always liked the system. 13 months, 28 days each. The year starts on what is now 21 march, the spring equinox. The last day of the year is the extra day. The symmetry would be best if this day belonged to no month, but practically it's probably easier to make it the last day of the last month. The leap day every 4 years should happen on the fall equinox.

Of course that's still a band-aid solution. The real solution is the speed up the earth so that a year takes exactly 364 days, instead of this silly 365.24219 days. Alternatively you could slow down the earth's rotation.
Why not have the extra day last 29.81256 hours instead of 24?
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Flumble » Sat Dec 14, 2013 6:07 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Why not have the extra day last 29.81256 hours instead of 24?

Daylight saving time is hard enough for some people, we don't need an extra offset of 5.81256*k each year, so one day you'll wake up at 5PM and you're on time for work/college. :shock:

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:00 pm UTC

No no no, it'd be the last day of the year. You'd eat dinner around 8pm with your friends/family, then generally carouse and party until 17.47 pm (or 29.47 on a 24 hour clock) when you'd announce the new year and let off fireworks. Then you'd pass out/go to sleep after it ticks over from 29.47.45.216 to 00.00.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:18 pm UTC

And then the sun would rise an hour or two later?
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:26 pm UTC

Would it?

Hmm.

I appear to misunderstand the relationship between a solar year and mean solar time and apparent solar time.

But I have no idea why having a year which has 365.25 days in it would mess up when noon is. :|
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:27 pm UTC

Um, because noon continues to happen approximately every 24 hours regardless of how long the year is? It's why we add a full day every 4 years instead of 6 hours every one year.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Dec 14, 2013 8:24 pm UTC

Ah, so if we wanted to avoid leap days, we'd need to change the length of every day?
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Dec 14, 2013 8:29 pm UTC

Right. Which is why it's an annoying misconception when people claim some ancient calendar or other was "so accurate" that they didn't need leap years, since leap years (or something like them) are an intrinsic consequence of the fact that Earth doesn't rotate on its axis an integer number of times per revolution about the Sun.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Soralin » Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:55 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Ah, so if we wanted to avoid leap days, we'd need to change the length of every day?

That still wouldn't help you with where noon ended up. One year it might be in the middle of the year, and on successive years it might be at sunrise or sunset or the middle of the night. Having it spread out across every day, rather than all at once at the end of the year wouldn't solve the problem at all, it would just spread it out and make it a gradual change. You would have a "day" which is disconnected from the actual length of a day.

Unless by "change the length of every day" you mean to actually change the rate of rotation of the Earth, which would be a rather large undertaking. :)

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:05 pm UTC

And leap days are the only sensible option. Gotcha.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Thesh » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:33 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Ah, so if we wanted to avoid leap days, we'd need to change the length of every day?


Or accept the fact that the year and the seasons won't line up. Another alternative is to move earth to a different orbit, but that takes more effort than adding in a leap day.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Flumble » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:55 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
bigglesworth wrote:Ah, so if we wanted to avoid leap days, we'd need to change the length of every day?


Or accept the fact that the year and the seasons won't line up. Another alternative is to move earth to a different orbit, but that takes more effort than adding in a leap day.

Or we launch a long-distance walkie-talkie into space so we can communicate with Helios what the Sun's current trajectory should be.

gmalivuk wrote:Which is why it's an annoying misconception when people claim some ancient calendar or other was "so accurate" that they didn't need leap years,

I figure they can even be informed by discovery/nat. geo./history channel into thinking this, which makes them ever more stubborn in their belief. :P

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby bigglesworth » Sun Dec 15, 2013 12:01 am UTC

I tried to parse that mentally as a url, and wondered what sort of natural geography site has a history section.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Xanthir » Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:18 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:And leap days are the only sensible option. Gotcha.

That said, we could use the leap day to collect the leap seconds we accumulate every year or two. Having a single 3-4 second adjustment on the weird day every 4 years sounds better than 1 second on a random day every year or two.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Flumble » Sun Dec 15, 2013 11:07 am UTC

You shouldn't insert leap seconds during a leap day only:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_second wrote:Insertion of each UTC leap second is usually decided about six months in advance by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), when needed to ensure that the difference between the UTC and UT1 readings will never exceed 0.9 second.


It'd be a shame for the Sun to pass the highest point at Greenwich while your watch indicates it's 11:59:57. (though, this might happen anyway, as UT1 isn't fixed to Greenwich)

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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby Xanthir » Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:51 pm UTC

Given that I'm almost never at Greenwich, and thus my noon is at least several minutes off of the highest sun point, I think I'm okay with that.
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Re: Alternative Calendars

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Dec 15, 2013 10:37 pm UTC

Noon isn't at the same time every day in any time zone, including GMT.
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