Monday, January 17, 2005

Calendar Conundrum

On a lighter note...

Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, has proposed a revision to the Gregorian calendar used by most of the Western world for the last 400 years. Under his proposed calendar, which he calls the C&T calendar, the length of the year would be adjusted so that every day falls on the same day of the week every year. A sort of "leap week" would be added between June and July every five or six years to keep the calendar in sync with the solar year.

Of course, none of this has any effect on the Jewish calendar, which has been confusing gentiles for more than two millennia. Our calendar is based on rules from the Creator given to us in oral and written Torah, so we can't change it and we will continue to confuse you for the foreseeable future.

Why change the secular calendar? Laziness, of course! There is no limit to the amount of work geniuses will do in order to save themselves some work (I speak from personal experience). In this case, according to a journalist from the Baltimore Sun, Prof. Henry noticed that he was teaching the same courses using the same textbooks and assigning the same homework every year, but he had to revise his syllabus every year to reflect the new dates. Of course, this begs the question: why doesn't he update his course material? But that's not the point. The point is, if he can persuade the entire world (not to mention Microsoft!) to change their calendars, then he will never have to update his syllabus again.

Henry suggests that there are other advantages to the system too. For example, you could use the same calendar every year, and could buy a calendar any time of year you wanted.

I think perhaps Prof. Henry has not taken his plan far enough. Why do we have to have 12 months with varying numbers of days to keep track of? Henry's 364-day year could more conveniently be divided into 13 months of 28 days, yielding many more benefits. Every month would start on Sunday, so you could use the same calendar every month. Your monthly planner white board that you have to hand-write the days on? No more: the days can be pre-printed, because every month has the same days! The First Friday of a month always falls on the same day, no matter what month. Paychecks would always arrive on the same days of the month; no more confusion trying to coordinate a weekly payday with a monthly bill day! And think of the convenience for women on birth control: those three weeks on / one week off are always the same weeks. Of course, women not on birth control may not be happy to have their pregnancies expanded to 10 months.

Prof. Henry has an interesting idea, but let's be realistic: the chances of getting the entire world to go along with it are slim, and if the entire world isn't following this calendar, then there will be as much confusion between the C&T calendar and the Gregorian one as there is now between the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish one!

Calendar Reform - Professor Henry's home page on the subject
Astronomer wants calendar fixed - an article by a writer from the Baltimore Sun discussing the subject
Judaism 101: Jewish Calendar


moo said...

Some fragments found in the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate a 52-week calendar. Whether or not this calendar was ever used, rather than the halachic lunar system, is a point of contension among scholars. Certainly this calendar system does not follow the moon - it had months of length 30, 30, 31, repeated - and it is unknown how it would have been kept up with the sun, being over a day short. For this reason - how would they keep rosh chodesh, or pesach? - there is doubt that it was ever really put to use.

It would, logically, start the year on Wednesday, ie the fourth day of creation, when the celestial signs were created for us to follow the times. Thus the first of Nissan was a Wednesday, and with quarters each of 13 weeks, so were the first of Tamuz, Tishrei and Tevet. This would mean Yom Kippur falls on a Friday, also a big problem!

I just thought I would add that for comparison.

- Joel

MissBossyPants said...

I'm all for going to the Jewish Calendar, and I'm not even a Jew!

Barthnathanj said...

Don't change the George Calender. The Calender is a Christian Calender that has become seculatized. The George Calender date back to what we think is the time of the Birth of hour Lord Jesus Christ. The Jews calender is fine for Jews but they should not force other non-jews to use thier calender.

Kyle-the-Dork said...

I know I am going to sound like a know-it-all, but, for the second time, I feel I must, first, compliment you on your most recent post and, second, once again correct Barthnathanj who refered to the current secular calender being used around the world as the "George" calender. Sorry, but it is actually the "Gregorian" calender. And, no, George is not the modern version of Gregorian. Gregg is, as teh name of the currect calender come from the ancient name of Gregor. Just thought I would clear that up. Thanks.