Synopsis: By comparison with the history of relativity theory it is shown that the various possible calendars at present cannot break the monopoly of the dominant Gregorian system. A convincing reason for global calendar change is sought.

Calendar Relativity

Discussions about the "best" calendar (informal definition) seem to be never-ending. But everybody knows that the definition of "best" is a matter of agreement, purpose, or taste. The dominant world calendar is still Gregorian, now at the end of the 20th century (sic!) - at least in business, politics, and media - for various reasons. Still, a multitude of alternative calendars is sprouting up, especially in CALNDR-L.

Many people are aware that a calendar can be made up in an arbitrary way. All one has to do is set up some prerequisites or desired qualities. Mathematicians call these axioms or boundary conditions. From these, the structure of the calendar follows almost naturally. For a finishing touch, add some fancy names or meanings, et voilá: another calendar. The Seven Space calendar and various solar calendars are examples for this.

Computers being abundant, everybody can in principle use his own calendar(s). But the joy from the newfound mathematical freedom should not obscure the notion that making a calendar is a memetic act, and therefore political.

Now for the analogy to relativistic physics: After it became generally known that light is quantized, that the speed of light measures constant, that there are more geometries than one, thinking about these "new lands" led to quantum physics, special and general relativity. Those new theories were followed by technological advances like nuclear energy, computers, global positioning systems etc.

The emerging view of today's calendric world seems to me like the times of pre-relativistic physics. In those days the experts knew that Euclid's geometry was not the one-and-only reference frame. But nobody saw any reason to use non-euclidean geometry until general relativity came along. And Riemann seized the opportunity to stamp his name on a needed geometry.

Calendar experts of today know that there is a calendar continuum. But almost nobody uses these clever schemes. Why? because there is no real need. If a need were recognized by a majority or a powerful minority, there'd be an opportunity for change.

The discovery of a constant speed of light recommended the use of special relativity. But as long as there are no new discoveries (like wormholes, many-worlds theories, or other areas of research) that recommend "general calendar relativity", the old Gregorian system will stick.

Think of time as a straight line and of calendars of a system of making marks on this line. Call the Gregorian calendar "old physics" and the various reformed calendars "new models". Now, most people use the old physics and will see no reason for change to the new models - unless there is a "new physics", i.e. observations that do not fit the old model.

Many people still get along very good knowing nothing about Newtonian physics because they don't have to use it. Of course, engineers have to know their physics, but they remain a minority. On the other hand, a person who does not know "which day it is" may be considered by a psychologist as someone who has lost contact with "reality". Most western people even know their zodiac sign and so almost use two calendars in parallel! Parallel use of two or more calendars was and is still common in various cultures (Indonesian and Mayan calendars are examples).

A real reason for calendar expansion may be very fast global or space travel. But for matters concerning Earth, Gregorian reckoning will be as good as ever. Just like the old Newtonian physics is included in Einstein's models as a special case. Maybe Gregorian will be superseded by a better model that will be more convenient because it includes more aspects of the expanded habitat of mankind.

Another reason for calendar reform could be a mental paradigmatic change in human consciousness or society.

If you know of a really pervasive reason that recommends change to a special non-Gregorian calendar, let me know. No, more accuracy is not enough - we have the astronomers to keep track of leap seconds. No, conformity with a religion, taste or whim is not enough - these calendars are already in use. Give me an observation, an invention or other scientific reason. Don't forget to check out Calendar Reform in the 21st Century? before you send your email! Thank you.


Calendrics at this site

Essays on mathematical themes


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