Introduction

As astronomers and other scientists perfect their timekeeping,
time is powderized into nanosecond dust.

Every calendar-maker chooses
how to create forms from this dust in meaningful ways;
forms to interpret the past, assess the future or the present.


These forms are the cycles, periods, years, months, weeks, days etc. They are created by definition (e.g. "a day starts at ...", "the length of a month is determined by ...") Moon phases, equinoxes, solstices and eclipses are often of relevance for terrestrial calendar-makers because they are useful for the agriculturist, in ritual or as indicator for rhythms of the human body.

Living beings resonate with the rhythms of their environment. These rhythms are the circadian (circa daily), circalunar (circa moon phase) and circannual (circa yearly) rhythms.
The best-known example of an animal that follows all three of these rhythms is the Palolo (a marine worm found in the Pacific), which swarms at a certain time of the year, at a certain moon phase, at a certain time of day and tide.
The actual existence of various clock mechanisms within the human body is widely accepted in science, because of synchronization (e.g. menses between women that live together) and especially de-synchronization delay effects ("jet-lag"). A biological "clock" could not be de-synchronized if it were entirely dependent on external rhythm stimuli; it would react instantaneously.
Biological clocks with periods of several years could in principle be explained away by a sensitivity of the plants to natural cycles of the period length in question (e.g. bamboo flowering could be driven by the intensity variation in solar radiance, due to the 11-year sunspot cycle). Currently (1998) under scientific research is the question how strongly the lifespan of animals is determined by the DNA (can we breed Methusalems?) and other biological clocks.

A calendar is a social contract, not a scientific device. It serves whatever purposes the originating society desires, assuming that the society actually implemented its intentions.

Everyone can in principle make an own individual calendar, tied to the scientific time system. And the computer facilitates the use of more complicated calendars for personal use because it makes conversions more easy.
Even "unscientific" calendars could be used that are based on "subjective" impressions and therefore not rigidly tied to the scientific time system. In the extreme, this leads to "permanent leap days" or something like that.

The seconds, days and years of the scientific time system are constructs that are based on clocks (atomic clocks at present) - not astronomical facts. (Please note "The Fundamental Problem With Clocks"). To fit this system with observation, occasional leap seconds are introduced. In this way, the inherently chaotic motion of celestial bodies is approximated for a short time - until the next unpredictable leap. The same unpredictability is evident especially in long-term weather forecasts: they are not always correct, because weather has chaotic dynamics.

Next: Fractal Calendars.

Contents of "On Fractal Time"


Other Calendrics at this site.

Essays on mathematical themes, among them Fractal Attractors in Personal Lives


© Copyright 1998, Mario Hilgemeier, email: contact
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