I am very pleased to bring you this guest post, from David Miller. David is a published author, and a song lyricist too. His witty limericks are a joy to read, and his last novel ‘Pope On The Dole’ was a cleverly-constructed and amusing story set in the near future. He has been a great supporter of my blog over the years, and has also become a firm friend too. His own site can be found here.
https://millerswindmill.wordpress.com/ Please check out that site, when you have a chance to do so.
Today’s story is an amusing look at the vagaries of how we manage time, with a hint of science fiction thrown in.
TIME FOR AN INTERVIEW
After Jason Targo–our newly designated ambassador to the planet Kthorus–participated in the first of several scheduled diplomatic talks, he sat down with a reporter named Waktu for an interview that touched upon measures of time.
WAKTU: You measure Time by counting the revolutions of your planet around your star, which you call the Sun… How old are you?
JASON TARGO: I’m 58 years old. I was born on December 12th, 2110.
WAKTU: According to my sources, it’s now August 5th, 2169. So surely you are mistaken about your age. You must be 59. It’s simple math: 2169 minus 2110 is 59.
JASON TARGO: That’s true. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m 58 until December 12th.
WAKTU: And yet this is your 59th year! So I’m confused… What century is this on Earth?
JASON TARGO: It’s the 22nd Century.
WAKTU: But it’s 2169! If you are 58 until your 59th birthday, shouldn’t you be living in the 21st Century until the year 2200?
JASON TARGO: I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way… Oh, and you might be interested to know that 2200 is the only year that starts with 22 that’s actually part of the 22nd Century, because the following year, 2201, is the start of the 23rd Century.
WAKTU: This is confusing. I’m also confused by the way you tell the time of day.
JASON TARGO: Oh? And how do the people of Kthorus tell the time of day? My understanding is you also use AM and PM.
WAKTU: Yes, but we have 20-hour days, which is to say that we’ve divided the day into 20 increments. Our AM lasts 10 hours, and so does our PM. But let’s talk about Earth hours. For some reason, you divide your day into 24 hours. Your AM lasts 12 hours, and your PM lasts 12 hours. But the way you treat the transition from AM to PM and vice versa makes no sense to me.
JASON TARGO: I think I understand what you mean. Why is 12 midnight considered AM, when the number 12 follows 11, and–?
WAKTU: Yes, but it’s more than just that. Logically, since you are 58 years old until your 59th birthday, shouldn’t it be PM from midnight until 12:59, with the morning of the next day starting at precisely 1:00 AM? And shouldn’t AM be applied through 12:59, so that the afternoon doesn’t start until 1:00 PM? Shouldn’t mornings and afternoons start with 1 instead of 12?
JASON TARGO: Well, it’s an interesting idea. But it would never work. How can we apply the word ‘Noon’ to 1:00? ‘Noon’ means 12, just as ‘Midnight’ means 12!
WAKTU: So your clock is a slave to language?
JASON TARGO: I wouldn’t put it that way, but–
WAKTU: Let me back up a bit. What about your centuries? Earth is far older than 2,169 revolutions around your Sun, but, of course, it’s impossible to base a calendar on the formation of one’s planet because it’s a very lengthy process. We know that homo sapiens has existed on your planet for at least 200,000 Earth years, but, again, it would be impossible to date your species precisely. However, you have a recorded history that goes back approximately 5,000 years. So even if you can’t date the first written record to the exact year it was produced, you can at least establish an estimated Year 1. It seems to me that you should be living in, say, the 52nd Century! And yet, you claim this is year 2169…
JASON TARGO: I can assure you that our dates go back farther than that!
WAKTU: Oh? You have negative years?
JASON TARGO: No! We have CE and BCE. You see, there was this religious man, and we decided he was born in 1 CE–on December 25th of that year.
WAKTU: So he was born near the end of the year?
JASON TARGO: Yes. At least as far as the calendar is concerned.
WAKTU: So shouldn’t the first year of your CE calendar have begun on that day?
JASON TARGO: Uh…
WAKTU: Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on what you said about your birthday, this religious man didn’t celebrate his first birthday until near the end of 2 CE. Is that right?
JASON TARGO: Yes. Like I said, he was born in 1 CE. There is no zero year in our calendar. The year before 1 CE was 1 BCE. In order to celebrate your first birthday in 1 CE, you had to be born in 1 BCE.
WAKTU: I really can’t make any sense out of all that. Here on Kthorus, we count the years based on revolutions around our star. So we have that in common. But we don’t base our calendar on a religious man. We base it on the earliest known written record of our species. We consider that point in time to be the birth of our civilization. So our calendar reflects the age of our civilization.
JASON TARGO: That’s very interesting. And I’d like to discuss these things further with you, but I’m afraid I’ve run out of time.
WAKTU: You look healthy to me… Surely, you aren’t about to die..?
JASON TARGO: No! I can assure you, I’m far from ready to knock on Death’s door!
WAKTU: But you did just say that you’ve run out of time! …And what about that door?
Copyright ©2017 David E. Miller