Last updated on Saturday, May 10, 2014.

The GRG Proposed XML (Extensible Markup Language) BNF (Bachus Naur Form) of a universal TDS (Time/Date Stamp) for the purpose of Calendaring either a statement or a file shall be defined as follows:

{TDS} ::= {TZID}{YYYY}{A}{MM}{DD}T{HH}{MM}{SS}
{TZID} ::= {CC}/{ZL}T
{CC} ::= 2-alpha: Country Code (US | CA | MX | UK | FR | IT | DE | SP | JA | RU | CH | IN | AU | ...)
{Z} ::= 1-alpha: Range of Time Zones for the Country (e.g., US = (E for Eastern | C for Central | M for Mountain | P for Pacific) ... )
{L} ::= 1-alpha: Seasonal Adjustment Designator (D = Daylight | S = Standard)
T = Time
{A} ::= 1-alpha: A for "AD" ( Anno Domini ["in the Year of Our Lord," and not "After Death"]) or else "CE" (for Common Era) | B for "BC" (Before Christ) or else "BCE" (Before the Common Era)(Common Era notation ("BCE" and "CE") may be thought of as an evasive euphemism, but it may be more politically correct from a secular point of view, as it leaves aside the religious issue of "Why invoke Christianity when it is not the exclusive religion of humans on this planet?" Regarding the origins of "BC/AD," the Monk, Dionysius Exiguus, is said to have coined this notation in the year 525 AD. On rare occasions, for the cognoscenti, one may also find the abbreviation "EV" in place of "CE," which stands for Era Vulgaris, the Latin translation for "Common Era."
{YYYY}::= 4-digit Year, range = [0, 9999]*
{MM} ::= 2-digit Month, range = [01, 12]
{DD} ::= 2-digit Day, range = [01, 31]
{HH} ::= 2-digit Hour, range = [00, 24]
{MM} ::= 2-digit Minute, range = [00, 60]
{SS} ::= 2-digit Second, range = [00, 60]**

Comparisons can be made by offsetting to UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) (also known as "ZULU Time" in military jargon and has been used by the US Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha, NE for ICBM targeting purposes).

So, for example, if today is "Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 9:30 PM PDT," one would then write the Time-and-Date Stamp as:

US/PDT2009A1230T213000

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* The logic for using only four year-digits, instead of five or more, is as follows: If you go backwards in time as far as you can (9999B), you effectively encompass all of human recorded history. If you go forward in time as far as you can (9999A), it's true that you hit a "Y10K" problem of sorts; but we should be willing to let our progeny deal with this problem, as they will more likely adopt a new set of calendaring standards by that time anyway. Therefore, I suspect that four digits represents a good compromise, at least for the time being. The abbreviation ATB for After the Bang (in billions of years) is popular among cosmologists for those who might find it useful, but it doesn't fit well with our current definitions.

** There is no justification for increasing the resolution of the 2-digit seconds field unless one is trying to move a photo telescope or some such thing. But there are metric alternatives available (ms, microsec, ns [nano second], picosec, femtosec, attosec, zeptosec, yactosec, or through the use of scientific notation, which can command infinitely larger negative exponents) in the case where one needs to be even more precise.

*** Just in case one wanted to add Geometric Data (3-D spacial coordinates) to one's Time/Date Stamp, so that, in principle, one could receive bar-coded correspondence from a far off location elsewhere in the universe, how might you do it? Well one method could use one's postal mailing address [honorific title, name, organizational title, organization, street address, city, state or province, zip code, and country, voice telephone, FAX, Cell Phone, Beeper, E-mail address](e.g.,
Dr. L. Stephen Coles
Co-Founder
Gerontology Research Group
817 Levering Avenue, Suite 8
Los Angeles, CA 90024-2767; USA
Voice: 310-209-0853
FAX: 310-209-0860
Cell: 310-892-9120
E-mail: scoles@grg.org )
Continent ("North America")

followed by our Cosmic Address:

3rd Planet from the Sun ("Earth")
Solar System ("Sol")
Galactic Region ("Orion Arm")
Galaxy ("Milky Way")
Group ("Local Group")
Supercluster ("Local Supercluster")
Universe ("Local Universe")
Multiverse ("The Matrix") -- A super-high-genus topological Manifold possibly connected by Worm Holes"

However, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for someone (SETI are you listening?) to answer any request for an alien pen pal.

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If anyone wishes to recommend a refinement to these definitions, please let us know.

E-mail: scoles@grg.org


As the pace-of-living quickens with each passing generation, a complete understanding of all things temporal still eludes us.

Even the perception of time's passage has been found empirically to accelerate with age. Explanation: The world appears to speed up with age secondary to a slowing down of our older biological (internal) clocks, even though, obviously, time ticks uniformly in the outside world for both young and old alike. The actual quantitative experiment that was conducted to prove this point was to use a standard stop watch as a control for both young and old people chosen randomly (on the street) asking them to say "Now!" when they estimated subjectively how long it took for exactly one minute to pass (without the benefit of any external cues to recalibrate themselves). The younger group said "Now!" at 50 seconds, while the older group (> 60 yo) said "Now!" at 59 seconds, on average. (Clearly, there must have been a cross-over point for middle-agers that was quite accurate in its 1-1 correspondence to the real world.)

[Ref.: Michio Kaku, Physicist from New York City and Narrator of "Time: Part II" BBC-TV (aired in the UK on January 20, 2006).]

Temporal Humor; A Brief Essay on the Stupidity of Human Beings and Their Failure To Comprehend the Enormous Value of Standards Throughout History

The Swatch Company of Biel, SWITZERLAND has created a new time-keeping standard that breaks a day up into 1,000 units (.beats on the Internet).

If all of this seems very technical to you, consider the method that is used to calculate on what particular Sunday we should celebrate Easter (in the Western World). In 325 AD, The Council of Nicea (300 Bishops from around the world) established the following rule: "The first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring (Vernal Equinox), unless that date falls on the first day of the Jewish Passover Festival, in which case Easter shall be moved to the following Sunday after that."

By the way, not everyone agrees that Christmas should fall on December 25th either. Certain cognoscenti/history-afficionados claim that there is evidence that the real birthday of the baby Jesus occurred at another, totally-different time of the year, and a late December day was cleverly chosen to upstage pagan holidays that always came with the Winter Equinox (think Stonehenge). Or, if you believe that certain events should fall on particular days of the week, why should Thanksgiving be the fourth Thursday in November but Halloween on every October 31st regardless of the day of the week (or without begging the question, why should All-Saints'-Day fall on November 1st?)? (Curiously, Canadians choose to celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. And why is that? Probably, because it is cooler up there, and Fall harvesting necessarily comes earlier. Furthermore, Canadians have enough sense to celebrate their holidays [except Christmas and New Years] on Mondays, so they can have a three-day weekend.) And furthermore, who figured out this arbitrary and capriciousness business of how many days should each month have and why leap-year days should occur in February and not in December or some other month, anyway?

By adopting the Gregorian Calendar (named for Pope Gregory) to replace the older Roman Julian Calendar (named for Julius Caesar) [18], an unanticipated but important problem was satisfactorily solved but with minor local transition problems for some at that time. The older Julian Calender was defective because it gained about three days every four centuries because the tropical year is just a bit less than the 365-days 6-hours long, which is assumed by intercalating an extra day exactly every four years (leap years). By 1582, when Pope Gregory finally decided to do something about this problem, the Vernal Equinox was creeping backward into early March. So, dropping ten days from the calender put the equinox back at March 21st, where it belonged [14], while the business of skipping leap years at Century marks (with the exception of every 400 years, when we need to have a "leap day" anyway, as in the year 2000; have you got that?) completed the change. So-called "Leap Seconds," are introduced into atomic clocks periodically, as they are needed. [In case you need to know why, The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) inserts a leap second periodically, every 500 days or so, to compensate for the slowing of the Earth's rotation due to tidal friction from the world's oceans. Otherwise, continuously running atomic clocks after a few years could potentially affect air traffic control systems or economic transactions, not to mention the tracking of communication satellites in orbit around the Earth or the pointing/alignment of telescopes for accurate astronomical observations. [12] To be more precise, an angle expressed as the difference between a time scale measured by the rotation of the Earth ( UT1) and a Uniform Time Scale (or Coordinated Universal Time, as measured by an atomic clock)( UTC), which refers to the angular difference between the direction of the 0° meridian on the Earth and the direction to a point defined astronomically in space. Historically, some form of time, based on the rotation of the Earth, has always been the foundation for "civil time," while the measuring procedures depended on available technology and precision requirements. In our modern practice, UT1 is defined using a fiducial direction defined mathematically in the celestial reference system, referred to as the Mean Sun. From the time of its inception, UTC's rate and/or epoch have been adjusted to keep it near UT1. The current practice is to adjust UTC in epoch by an integer number of seconds (called leap seconds) in order to keep the difference between UT1 and UTC less than 0.9 seconds. UTC is defined by the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) Recommendation No. 460-4. It must differ from TAI (Temps Atomique International) by an integral number of seconds. TAI is an atomic time scale determined by the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Its units are exactly one Système Internationale (SI) Second measured at mean sea level.] Anyway, as our universal European standard calendar was being adopted in England a long time ago, there was a brief period when all Englishmen were required to lose ~10 days of their lives (not really), but the history of human timekeeping is filled with interesting tales of opportunism and exploitation and could easily fill a book. The Chinese still celebrate their own New Year sometime in February, while the Thais celebrate theirs in April, but not consistently on the same day from year to year. Whatever are the rules used to determine the exact days could only be discovered by consulting an informant with proper cultural expertise.

And why should months-of-the-year or days-of-the-week be named in Latin after mythological Norse, Roman, or Greek gods (or planets for that matter)? It's certainly clear that there were 5 + 2 = 7 non-twinkling distinguished heavenly bodies [Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon {Luna}, and the Sun {Sol}] known to our optically-challenged, native-sighted ancient astronomers and caveman predecessors [Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, etc. were not discovered until after Galileo first invented the telescope] at the likely time [around 1,000 BCE] that the days of the week were named that could match the modulo(7) day-count system and astrology was undoubtedly important to the clerics of that time)? The seven-day Judeo-Christian-Roman week has no astronomical basis, as does the day, the month, or the year, and was not formally adopted worldwide until the Roman Emperor Constantine so mandated it in 321 A.D. Curiously, in some languages, like Japanese, days-of-the-week are numbered from one to seven: "Oneday" = Monday; "Twoday" = Tuesday; etc. I always thought that that was really cool. But I don't even know why we have a seven-day week (except that I read in an Old Testament story called Genesis that it only took six days for God to whip up the universe, and on the seventh day, He rested (now called The Sabbath), and all the other religions figured out that it must be a good idea, even if they didn't invent it locally (NIH). Nevertheless, even before the time of the writing of the Old Testament, the ancient Babylonians and Sumerians established a six-day work week with an added day for recreation, so there was a precedent. Even today, people can't figure out when a weekend should start and stop; did you ever notice that? People are still fighting over when the work week should stop, like on Thursday afternoon, given that you have to work on Sunday in many parts of the world.) Why didn't we think of the Japanese (logical) method of naming days? And why perchance is a two- week interval called a "fortnight" (literally "14 nights")? Do we really need such a time unit in everyday speech? And if we do, why not name three weeks' a "twenight"?

Actually, it could have been worse. If there were eight days in a week, it might have matched up better with the phases of the moon (4x8=32), but that didn't work so well with the year being mod(365). And there were rival standards advocated by those ancients who didn't leave a written record as to why they choose their week to be mod(5), mod(6), mod(8), mod(9), or even mod(10), or why hours are mod(12)? Even some moderns amongst us chose different standards before they were soon extinguished. Agrarian societies sometimes chose mod(8) to insert an extra day for marketing. In Stalinist Russia they tried mod(5) or mod(6) for a while, while in Revolutionary France they tried mod(10) for a while. They didn't work either. But even if we were to adopt a universal mod(7) and standardized naming system, who is to say that everybody's "Sunday" would be synchronized around the planet. Well, people like Alexander the Great, the conquering Emperors of the early Roman Empire, and so forth, were probably to be given credit, given that taxes had to be collected while they simultaneously contributed their languages, their numbering systems, their coin-of-the-realm, their civil laws, and their religions to the infidels. Often, the second- and later-born sons of royalty were placed on loan at around five years of age to be raised by a heathen King and Queen in the distant provinces with the understanding that they were to be treated as their own son in their own court. The sons would then come back to Athens, Alexandria, or Rome, whatever, when they became 18 years of age or so. Then, they could serve as linguistically-fluent ambassadors to that foreign kingdom in the next generation of commerce.

Changing to a slightly different topic, it's still worse, that we can't even figure out what punctuation marks to use in our written languages --- like why don't we have an "upsidedown" question mark (¿) (or "upsidedown" exclamation point; [Hello, XML/HTML Standards Committees, are you listening?]) like Spanish writers have done since the beginning? ¿Don't you think that's really cool? But never in my lifetime have I ever heard of anyone (except me) propose to adopt this convention in English. And where is the Greek alphabet in html anyway? Maybe it's out there by now on the Internet, and my knowledge is too antiquated to locate it. Speaking of alphabets, why do continue to indulge the creators of our 26-letter Latin alphabet, so filled with useless redundancy. One could easily eliminate, the letter "c", for example, replacing it with "k" or "s", as phonetically appropriate (cat = kat; cycle = sykle, etc.), but would you bother to ask a random Latin ancestor what the logic was for such-and-so, when they did their arithmetic in Roman numbers instead of Arabic (which at least had the digit "zero")? (Big Roman numbers are routinely used today by movie studios to conceal the date of copyright from ordinary folk watching the credits roll at the end of a movie.) I still own a slide rule, but I never use it today. We should, for sure, eliminate the letter pair "ph", as in "telephone," replacing it with an "f". "Ph" was inherited from the Greek letter "phi" and shamelessly imported into the Cyrillic alphabet as a cognate phoneme for foreign words that have no counterpart in the Russian sound system (like "telephone"). English is capable of evolving somewhat (e.g., we no longer are "burdened" with the pronouns "thee, thou, and thine," except on occasion when reading/listening to Shakespear [or his King James contemporaries] [although the French retain their counterpart familial pronouns to good advantage to indicate social propinquity, e.g., one would never say, "I love you"; one would only say, "I love thee." Also, the French have very cleverly imported the word "Yes" from Spanish ("Si," rather than "Oui," but not the French word for "if") to serve as a contradictory affirmation to a presuppositional interrogative... e.g., Q: "You didn't finish your work, did you? A: Yes (Si), I did." used to properly disabuse the asker of a false assumption. This "yes" particle, unfortunately, has no English counterpart. Too bad. Why not?]) How can we get things fixed when they're so conspicuously screwed up, and we don't even seem to know that our language is in such serious disrepair, since none of your English teachers ever seemed to care? Can we ask a computational linguist what could-have-been/should-have-been/could-still-be? The inventors of Esperanto and George Bernard Shaw had their go at it in the last century but didn't come away with any applause for their efforts, as I recall. Simply importing just a few symbols from mathematical logic into everyday written English would make our language so much more effective and I can't imagine why we don't even suggest it; every time you read a newspaper story about an event, for example, but most people, sadly, don't even know that these symbols exist, let alone what they mean when they are shown them. Even though the language can evolve from old (Beowulf) English to modern English, there seems to no will to even let it evolve (in my own lifetime), except through the mechanism of teenage slang or Valley Girl Talk (e.g., "Like I was so angry, when he said that!") which I find to be syntactically rebarbative (I always wanted to find a good use for this beautiful word, which means "repellent").

Before the adoption of Standard Time in 1883, America was a laissez-faire country as far as time keeping was concerned. Farmers got up at dawn where ever they happened to live. City- dwellers also kept their own time. If it was 11:32 AM in Buffalo it might be 11:41 AM in New York City. And so what? (Think of the liberating effect of not caring what time it was in other parts of the country.) But the railroad industry became increasingly frustrated by the capricious local time-keeping customs of different cities along their tracks. After all, how could passengers figure out (without being a savant) when they had to leave in order to have a reasonable chance of making an appointment elsewhere? So Standard Time was adopted by law. Efficiency eclipsed the sun (God's time) as America's time keeper. Accordingly, the U.S. was divided into four "Time Zones": Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Borderline cities and counties in different states were permitted to choose their preferred time zone, so long as it was contiguous. Later, other non-intuitive problems had to be solved with the reconciliation of US time zones (our four continental zones plus new ones for Hawaii and Alaska) with the natural geographical boundaries of individual states. For example, why should Nevada be in Pacific Time but not in Mountain Time? Is it because Las Vegas needs to be close to Los Angeles, it's main source of economic revenue?

Another curious problem is the location of the International Date Line (IDL). Zigzagging across the waters of the Pacific Ocean near the 180° Meridian, it is plotted on today's charts and globes to indicate the boundary line between 'today' and 'tomorrow.' Despite its name, its precise location was never really fixed by any international law, treaty, or agreement. Although its exact location would seem to be a matter of little concern to most people, it did become a serious issue during the recent years of 1999 and 2000, as this would determine which of the numerous islands straddling its course across the Pacific Ocean could claim itself to be the first to inaugurate the new Millennium. The Circumnavigator's Paradox is another problem that arises by considering a hypothetical race between two individuals traveling in opposite directions around the Equator one going East and the other going West, who then meet at their point of origin. The winner of contest might be the one who crossed the International Date Line in an advantageous direction and thereby gained a day. The earliest known reference to this paradox can be found in the works of the Syrian Prince and geographer/historian Isma'il ibn 'Ali ibn Mahmud ibn Muhammad ibn Taqi ad-Din 'Umar ibn Shahanshah ibn Ayyub al Malik al Mu'ayyad 'Imad ad-Din Abu 'l-Fida [1273 - 1331]. In his Taqwin al-Buldan, Abu 'l-Fida described how a traveler, depending on his direction of travel, would either lose or gain a day at the completion of his trip. But we can safely forget this particular problem, since it has no practical application.

Another temporal curiosity is the twice-a-year shift from Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the Spring and Standard Time in the Fall. According to a new book, Seize the Daylight, by David Pereau, the Father of DST was the English architect William Willett, who campaigned for its adoption in the first decade of the 20th-Century. Willett made the case that extending Summer daylight hours would allow for more enjoyable leisure time after work and save money on energy. He published his ideas in a 1907 pamphlet titled The Waste of Daylight, which was reprinted in several different languages. But despite Willett's efforts to convince the UK Parliament to change English clocks, he did not succeed by the time of his death in 1915 at age 58. The year before Willett died, World War I broke out in Europe. On April 30, 1916, Germany, Britain's enemy in the war itself adopted DST to save money on fuel. Spurred on by the Germans, Parliament enacted the Summer Time Act of 1916 on May 17th, which pushed clocks forward one hour. Many Englishmen referred to the change as "Willett Time."

In America, Cincinnati businessman E.H. Murdock was intrigued by Willett's idea. He even discussed it in a White House meeting with President William Howard Taft in 1909. However, Murdock was unsuccessful in moving the cause from idea to reality. As in Europe, it was World War I that pushed America to act. President Woodrow Wilson signed DST into law on March 19, 1918, 11 months after declaring war on Germany. After the Great War was over, farmers, who hated DST, convinced us to revert back to Standard Time all year. Then, during World War II, it was readopted. Finally, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 established DST as the national standard, but there was an idiosyncracy in the law. Legislators left it up to individual states whether they ought to comply. The Act set DST from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. In 1986, an amendment changed DST to its current format starting at 2 AM on the first Sunday in April to 2 AM on the last Sunday in October, and that's why Trick-or-Treat on Halloween night always seems darker than normal. See Michael Downing, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Times, (Shoemaker and Hoard; 202 pages; List = $23; ISBN: 1593760531; 2005); David Prerau, Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Savings Time (Thundermouth Press, Inc.; 2006 ); and Mark Peteres, "Some Say Daylight Saving Time Is Just a Waste of Time: Springing Forward Doesn't Conserve Energy, Says One Author, Because a Later Sunset Lets People Do More," The Los Angeles Times (March 10, 2007). Also, activating DST on Sunday, March 11, 2007 proves that the first Sunday in April is no longer considered a sacred time to start the process. This led to a lot of computer glitches.

So what's the problem? After 1945, those states and cities who capriciously choose not to comply with the change might cause the hour to flip back and forth several times in a matter of traveling a few miles. Even today, Arizona, Hawaii, and parts of Indiana still resist the change. Indiana, in particular, is an egregious example of shameless horological schizophrenia. The Capital, Indianapolis, follows EST all year without observing Daylight Time, while Evansville in the Southwest corner of the state follows CST but does observe Daylight Time. Therefore, within the same state at some times of the year it's the same time, while at other times, it's not!

[Note: As of April 2006, we will no longer be able to exploit the state of Indiana as a poster child for temporal stupidity. In May 2005, the governor of Indiana signed legislation in Indianapolis implementing daylight saving time. Efforts to make the statewide switch had failed for more than two dozen times before lawmakers narrowly approved DST last month. The measure will leave just Hawaii and most of Arizona in the embarrassing predicament as the only states to ignore this obvious measure.] I, personally, back in the year 1957, discovered that a military base (Eglin Air Force Base in Florida) remained on standard time while all the surrounding part of Florida went on DST, which caused our party to be exactly one-hour late for a very important appointment that was missed after two days of travel needed to get us there.

The late Sir Arthur Clarke complained vociferously but to no avail to the Cylonese government to adopt a form of Daylight Savings Time that will move the clock twice a year by 60 minutes instead of 30 minutes. Imagine trying to conduct business on an international telephone call with this additional -hour constraint! Sri Lanka Time (SLT) is a special time zone just for Sri Lanka. It is 5 1/2 hours ahead of GMT/UTC (UTC+5:30). Hello. What's going on? Sri Lanka Time reverted on April 15, 2006 00:00 to match Indian Standard Time calculated from the Allahabad Observatory in India 82.5 longitude East of Greenwich; UK, the Reference Point for GMT. The entire country shares the same time. Since 1880, Ceylon or Sri Lanka Time has varied between GMT+05:30 to GMT+06:30 hours. (Gasp!)

The Canadian Provence of Newfoundland also is offset from GMT by one-half hour (UTC+3:30)[28].

We have just learned of an even more absurd abuse of international time keeping in Nepal where the standard of moving the clock for Day Light Savings time is not 30 minutes - - but 15 minutes! Official time, as decreed by the government in Katmandu, the Nepalese capital, falls on the 15- or 45-minute mark relative to most of the rest of the world. So, if it's 3:15 in Nepal, it's 3:00 in India, 3:30 in Pakistan, 5:30 in China, 3:30 in Bhutan; 3:30 in Bangladesh, and 4:00 in Myanmar (Burma), all of which are nearby countries. This head-spinning clutch of time zones attests to the fact that a country's official time is linked as much, if not more, to politics than geography. When a more rational reform was suggested in Celon, Buddhist astrologers warned that any change would bring bad luck, and so the country declined to switch [6].

Curious timekeeping anomalies can take place in the Chinese city of Kashgar in the province of Xinjiang near the far Western border near Kyrgyzstan, since this city of 350,000, built around an oasis along the Old Silk Road, maintains two different time zones that are two (2) hours apart! [8] How you set your wristwatch depends not only on the neighborhood but on your profession, your ethnicity, your religion, and your loyalty. The Chinese Hans keep Beijing time, while the Muslim Uighurs observe their own local time. (Sigh!)

Most recently, the Bush Administration is seeking in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a Bill that won approval in a joint Senate/House Conference Committee but is not yet signed as law, to extend DST by four weeks starting in the year 2007 (starting three weeks earlier and ending one week later [the 1st Sunday in April > the 2nd Sunday in March; while the last Sunday in October > the 1st Sunday in November]) on the grounds that it would save more energy in a time of tight oil supplies. Consider Halloween with an hour of additional light! But worse, we don't use oil to make electricity where the potential savings are supposed to come from (we use coal and nuclear primarily for electricity). And still worse, there would be a trend toward driving for additional leisure activities after coming home from work, which would actually make it counterproductive as far as oil savings is concerned! Oh well, is there logic for the government to ignore the cost of fixing all our computer chips that automatically change the hour for us? This would be another "Y2K Problem"' of sorts, much worse than the "leap second" problem in which astronomers attempt to keep Greenwich Mean Time synchronized with the moon's relationship to the Earth and Sun. [The sidereal month or time period for one lunar revolution around the Earth is ~27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes. (For the cognoscenti, there is also a synodic month of ~29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, defined by the "phases" of the moon {full, gibbous, half, quarter, new, etc.}.) The orbit of the moon is slightly elliptical with a perigee (when the moon is nearest the Earth) of about 227,000 miles (365,000 Km), and an apogee(when the moon is farthest from the Earth) of about 254,000 mi (409,000 Km). The angle of declination of the Moon's orbit with respect to the plane of the ecliptic (where all the other planets live) is about 5o However, over long periods of time, the distance from the Earth to the moon is increasing because the moon is slowly moving away from the Earth. And, why is that? Ocean tides (the twice-daily rise and fall of sea level) are caused by the flow of water toward the two points on the Earth's surface that are instantaneously directly beneath the moon and directly opposite the moon. Because of frictional drag, the Earth's rotation carries the two tidal bulges slightly forward of the line connecting Earth and the moon. The resulting torque slows the earth's rotation, as mentioned above, while increasing the moon's orbital velocity. As a result, our 24-hour day is getting slightly longer (as discussed above) while the moon is slowly drifting farther away from the Earth, over time, at the rate of 3.8 cm per year. The moon also raises much smaller "tides" in the solid crust of the Earth, regularly deforming its shape slightly which also generates heat. The tidal influence of the Earth on the moon is what was responsible for making the moon's own period of rotation and revolution equal, so that the same side of the moon always faces the Earth (so, the only way to see the back side of the moon is to photograph it while going around it during a space mission. However, the moon does not have a "dark side" as does the planet Mercury. Indeed, the moon like the Earth is uniformly illuminated by the sun over time, but if you were living there you wouldn't see a colorful sunset or sunrise, since the moon as no atmosphere. As a curiosity, the planet Pluto and its moon Charon are mutually locked in a gravitational sense, so that they tend to move around the sun as though they were attached to one another by an invisible thread {dumbbell}.) The moon appears larger to us when it's near the horizon than when it's near its zenith simply because of an optical illusion caused by the Earth's atmosphere. Similarly for apparent colors at different times of the year, like the so-called Harvest Moon (the full moon at the time of the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere) or Hunter's Moon (the full moon one month later). So, now you get a small feeling for why the ingenious ancient astronomers (without telescopes), who were trying to predict the exact location and time of full and partial eclipses of the sun and moon, had a difficult time of it and why today being a professional astronomer calculating orbits for precise "soft" landings on different celestial objects is not a business for amateurs.]

Conclusion: Despite all our modern cities, science and technology, landing on the moon, and such, we are burdened with this huge invisible infrastructure of arbitrary and irrational nonsense that we just can't seem to shake. Americans can't even switch to the metric system, presumably for the same reason that we can't junk the "QWERTY" keyboard (which is conspicuously/demonstrably inefficient); and god forbid that we would ever attempt to rationalize our language (like phonetic spelling, the regularizing of the idiotic past tense of a numerous irregular verbs, or the systematic elimination of ~150 homonyms [I have compiled a list, if only you were to ask.]). I'm not asking for grammarians in high school to rely on BNF (Backus Naur Form), which are used in formal computer programming languages. Is it too much to ask that British and Americans agree on how to spell a few dozen words (favor = favour? center = centre? (French?)) in their common language. It's not exactly "which side of the street to drive on" (which has a lot of hysteresis, as a multiple-lock-in phenomenon). And don't get me started on the irrational method that professional musicians have used for centuries to express notes on paper with bass and treble clefs and using sharps and flats, etc., which is really pathetic. Or why was there ever such a monetary unit as the Guinea (Gn)(valued at 21 Shillings) instead of the Pound Sterling (£)(valued at 20 Shillings). In Victorian times, only artists, doctors, and lawyers (barristers, solicitors, attorneys) requested their clients to pay them in guineas on their invoices. Everybody else found pounds to be quite adequate, thank you. Mercifully, the English decided to do away with this archaic unit in 1971 when they finally decimalized their currency. Someday, the British may even adopt the Euro, as the rest of Western Europe has done a few years ago.

It my considered opinion, the most egregious, ghastly, grotesque, reprehensible, detestable, pernicious, odious, insidious, and infuriating misuse of units of measurement is not the use of furlongs for distance at the race track, fathoms for depth of the ocean by mariners, or carets for weight in sizing precious stones, but Troy ounces for weight in the context of measuring quantities of precious metals, like gold, silver, platinum, palladium, etc. on the commodities exchange (by the bar = bullion; rather than by the coin [e.g., South African Krugerrand]). (Think Fort Knox.) Why? Because it's a totally gratuitous distinction in which 1 ounce = 1/16th pound (technically an avoirdupois ounce), while 1 Troy ounce = ~1.1 (avoirdupois) ounces; i.e., a Troy ounce is about 10 percent heavier (Troy, by the way doesn't come from the Greek city of Troy but the French city of Troyes during the Middle Ages). Curiously, 1 Troy pound contains 12 Troy ounces (not 16). So what accounts for the intensity of your complaint, you ask? Certainly not weirdness. There's already a lot of weirdness out there that you choose to ignore. For example, you didn't get all emotional about the resolution of stock trades on the Dow Jones when the finest resolution was simply changed by agreement from a fraction of a dollar (1/8th) to a penny (a decimal system) on one particular day after more than a century on the old (stupid) system. The answer is that I perceive Troy ounces for gold to be a legally-sanctioned conspiracy by rich people to keep poor people (non players) out of their club. You can only be ripped off as an intelligent poor person seeking to buy gold, if you're not an insider. Say you weigh your bar of gold on a bathroom scale and then try to calculate what it's worth by looking at the day's exchange rate in USDollars/oz in The Wall Street Journal, not that you'd buy it in a garage sale. But anyway, having a Ph.D. in physics, would still allow you to be exploited by the financial conspiracy, if you get my point, since this is something which is never taught in any school leading to a degree in science, as far as I know. I guess the institutional players feel that you don't need to learn it in school, since you'll learn it on the job, if you ever need to know it. Real players are taught by their parents or their bosses, not by going to school or by being smart and picking it up on your own. So, you don't know our rules; we'll happily eat your lunch, Mr. Smart Alec.

If Western Civilization marched (in an approximately westward trajectory) from Thebes to Babylon to Athens to Rome to Venice to Madrid to Paris to London to New York (or Bos/Wash = Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami), and most recently to Los Angeles (San/San = San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco), over a period of 8,000 years, where are we going to go next? Is it so hard to connect the dots on a sphere?

December 9, 2008; Washington, D.C. ... Don't forget to reset your (atomic) clocks. Astronomers are adding a 'leap second' to our year. As the Earth is slowing down (very slowly), we will have to add an extra second to keep up. The addition will be tacked-on on December 31, 2008 at 4:00 PM PST [after 3:59:59]. We started adding leap seconds in 1972. This is the first leap second since 2005, three years ago. [7]

"Leap seconds are a crude hack added 40 years ago to paper over the fact that the planets make lousy clocks compared with quantum mechanical phenomena. Timekeeping used to be astronomers' work, and the trouble it caused was very academic. To the rural population, {sunrise, midday, and sunset} were sufficiently precise for all relevant purposes. Timekeeping only became a problem for non-astronomers when ships started to navigate to where they could no longer see land. Finding your latitude was easy, but knowing your longitude required knowing the time-of-day precisely. [17]

Despite what it may say in Genesis, our seven-day week was not carved in stone for other civilizations. The Egyptian pharaohs had a fundamentally different calendar for their people, twelve days per week, not our seven [22]. Think of how different Western civilization would be if we had adopted a non-Greek/Roman calendering system, but an Egyptian work week instead.

Oh well, while we're at it, let's not forget that 1 Hubble Time is another unit for the "BIG BANG!" Have a nice "day" (24.000 hours?). Where did I leave my sundial?

July 14, 2011; The story of the 10,000 year clock [21].

December 30, 2011; Scientists and economists have proposed a new permanent calendar in which each 12-month period remains the same from year to year in perpetuity. This is accomplished not be tacking on an extra day in February for leap years but by adding a "leap week" at the end of December every five to six years! March, June, September, and December would have 31 days, while the rest would all have 30 days. All holidays would fall on the same day of the week. For example, Christmas would always occur on a Sunday. Economists predict that this would save ~$130 billion through a reduction in calculation errors of interest by banks. The Julian Calendar was good during its day. The Gregorian Calendar fixed some of the problems back in 1582. But we're due for another improvement that will make future generations wonder why we tolerated such an irrational, capricious, arbitrary, preposterous calendar for so long. [23].

January 20, 2012; The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) plans the injection of another leap second at Midnight on Saturday, June 30, 2012 [23:59:60 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)], not on December 31st as is more commonly the case [24].

November 2, 2012; The solid argument about saving energy costs by introducing day-light savings time for half the year, while once true, may no longer be true. Clever as he was when he introduced the idea, Benjamin Franklin didn't anticipate the eventual importance of air conditioning, a much more expensive item than electric lighting. Thanks to daylight-savings time, in the Summer months people come home from work an hour earlier and power up their air conditioning during one of the hottest parts of the day, even if they turn on their lights less frequently. To establish this fact, in 2006, some Indiana counties that had previously opted out of daylight-savings time were forced by state law to adopt it. The measure provided an opportunity to compare how energy use changed in those counties after the imposition of daylight-savings time. It also provided a ready-made "control group" of nearby counties that had been using it for years. Profs. Mathhew Kotchen of Yale and Laura Grant of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee found that daylight-savings time increases energy use by over one percent in Indiana during those months - - adding some $9 million to energy bills annually, plus sending an additional 188,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Daylight-savings time imposes its greatest costs in the Fall, the researchers found, when it prompts increases in morning heating without any savings on lighting. But it also imposes high costs in July and August, when increased air conditioning bills more than offset the savings in lighting. Another study found similar effects in Australia [27].


Refs.:

1. Pascal Richet, A Natural History of Time (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL; 2007).
French Geophysicist Pascal Richet makes the point that ancient men lived their lives with a perception of time as a seasonal or cyclic reality; precise linear quanta of time moving relentlessly from past to present to future is a relatively recent concept, giving us the ability to synchronize our watches and set a time and place for a future meeting. At one point, tribes allowed for a variable number of minutes in each hour to ensure that there would always be a fixed number of hours from dawn to sunset no matter what the season. That sounds cool. A peculiar calculation for the age of the Earth came in 169 AD, when the Bishop of Antioch declared that "our world has been in existence for 5,698 years plus a few odd months and days." It was not until the mid 18th-Century that scientific evidence from astronomy, biology, and geology began to accumulate, and much longer time scales could be appreciated. Even today, the Biblical chronology of creation holds sway over a large portion of our population, and the literal believers have no clue as to the true age of the universe -- billions of years.

2. "Venezuela: A Decree for the Clocks," The New York Times , p. A9 (August 21, 2007).
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has decreed that his country's clocks be moved forward by half an hour at the start of 2008 to help the metabolism and productivity of his citizens. This will also be accompanied by a move to a six-hour work day. [Gasp!]

3. Andrew Robinson, The Story of Measurement (Thames and Hudson; 2007).

4. Ian Whitelaw, A Measure of All Things: The Story of Man and Measurement (St. Martin's Press; 2007).

5. Ian R. Bartky, One Time Fits All: The Campaigns for Global Uniformity (Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA; 2007).

6. Henry Chu, "Pakistan's Switch Deepens South Asian Time Confusion," The Los Angeles Times p. A8 (June 1, 2008).

7. [ Editorial Remark: As the Earth's 24-hour day slows, will we be around to see the Earth and our Moon mutually lock on to each other as Pluto already does with Charon, so that neither could see the opposite's non-visible face -- a so-called 'dumbbell' configuration? Recall that in Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman of the dead. Charon is now also referred to as Pluto I. The New Horizons mission is scheduled to visit Pluto and Charon in July 2015. Hopefully, we will all be here for that singular event. -- LSC]
"Need Another Second? Got It," The Los Angeles Times, p. A8 (December 9, 2008).

8. Barbara Kemck, "Clocks Square Off in China," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1, 21 (March 31, 2009).

9. Charles Forelle, The Numbers Guy, "Time and Again, the Calendar Comes Up Short: Sticklers for Symmetry Lament Imperfections in the 400-year-old Gregorian System; Earth's Inconvenient Orbit," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, 12 (December 30, 2009).

Western religious traditions demand a seven-day week (Genesis), while ancient customs, rooted in lunar cycles, calls for a 12-month year [11]. However, the 24-hour day (rotation of the Earth on its axis) x 365 days is incommensurate with the revolution of the Earth around the Sun, and 365 is divisible by none of the 12 months, 7 days, or 4 seasons, so the extra bit of time - - about 1/4 day required to complete the orbit - - makes "leap years" essential to keep things on track (except for centuries not divisible by 400, modulo "Leap Seconds" introduced by modern astronomers to tighten things up further at seemingly random times but not really important unless you possess independent atomic clock(s) [three are needed to get a consensus if one goes off kilter for some reason] or you're trying to land on a distant planet). This leaves us with the predicament of starting January 1st on different day of the week year-after-year, which is our traditional Gregorian Calendar (named for Pope Gregory XIII who improved somewhat over the Julian Calendar (for Julius Caesar) in 1582). But what if we could always start January 1st on a Monday in perpetuity? How could that work out? The proposed World Calendar (endorsed by the UN in the 1950's) is one solution to this perennial problem. Traditional leap-year days are tacked on in June. The traditional 12 months are either 30 or 31 days. The problem is that the calendar requires an extra holiday (called Worldsday), which is not one of the standard {Monday, Tuesday, ..., Sunday} to be inserted at the end of December (giving us an eight-day week once-a-year), which would translate into a "double sabbath" for those of a religious persuasion. There are plenty of seven-day creation myths, but it's a stretch to justify calendarial dysfunction for eternity on such capricious grounds). Can we establish a movement to adopt the World Calendar by 2012, which is the next convenient time to do so?

10. Edward M. Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz, Calendrical Tabulations [1900-2200] (Hardcover 650 pages; Cambridge University Press; New York; First Edition 2002; at the price of US$184.00, this book is for reference only).
This comprehensive collection of calendars could only have been assembled by the authors of the definitive text on calendar algorithms -- Calendrical Calculations. Using the algorithms outlined in their earlier book, Reingold and Dershowitz have achieved the near impossible task of simultaneously displaying the date on thirteen different calendars over a three-hundred year period. Represented here are the Gregorian, ISO, Hebrew, Chinese, Coptic, Ethiopic, Persian, Hindu Lunar, Hindu Solar, and Islamic calendars; another three are easily obtained from the tables with minimal arithmetic (JD, R.D., and Julian). The tables also include phases of the moon, dates of solstices and equinoxes, and religious and other special holidays for all the calendars shown. These beautifully-produced tables will be of use for centuries by anyone with an interest in calendars and the societies that produce them.

11. In addition to 12 full moons, each calendar year, based on the Sun's motion, contains an excess of ~11 days, as compared with the "lunar year" (of 12 consecutive full moons). The extra days accumulate, so that every two or three years (seven times in the 19-year Metonic Cycle), there is an "extra" full moon, which for whatever reasons is called a blue moon (although its color is no different from the others). For example, during the month of December 2009, we experienced two full moons or a blue moon, for whatever that's worth.

12. The Most Accurate Atomic Clock Uses Aluminum Atoms".

Jeff Hecht "World's Most Precise Clock Created," New Scientist (February 8, 2010).

The new record-holder for the most precise timekeeper could tick off the 13.7-billion-year age of the universe to within 4 seconds. The optical clock monitors the oscillation of a trapped atom of aluminum-27. It is more than twice as precise as an earlier version, reported in 2008, and was built at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, CO. "It's extremely impressive," says Patrick Gill of the UK's National Physical Laboratory, who was not involved with the work.

The second is currently defined by cesium/strontium atomic clocks, but optical clocks promise higher precision because their atoms oscillate at the frequencies of light rather than in the microwave band, so they can slice time into smaller intervals. Such clocks could help spot tiny changes in physical constants over time. A coordinated network of dozens of atomic clocks distributed over the Earth could be hundreds of times more accurate than a single clock.

12A. January 23, 2014; (Science News) - - A clock made from strontium atoms and lasers has now become the world's most stable and precise timekeeper. The experimental timepiece is an atomic clock that uses lasers to link the length of a second to the frequency of light that makes electrons in strontium atoms jump to a higher energy level. The new clock, described January 23rd in Nature, is about 50 percent more precise than the previous record holder made of a single charged aluminum atom, and it rivals the ytterbium atomic clock for the title of most stable. The clock will improve physicists' definitions of the standard units of measure in the metric system and test of the fundamental laws of nature, the team writes [29].

13. "Russia: Two [of 11] Time Zones Are Eliminated," The Los Angeles Times, p. A4 (March 29, 2010).
This means that the Eastern extreme touching the Bearing Strait (across from Alaska) will now be nine hours ahead of the Westernmost area (between Lithuania and Poland) instead of ten. The changes went into effect at dawn when most of Russia went onto daylight savings time, and the eliminated time zones didn't move their clocks an hour ahead.

14. The Gregorian Calendar was first adopted in France on December 20, 1582. Great Britain and its possessions didn't switch to the Gregorian Calendar until the year 1752. (Sigh!) Ironically, this "improved" calendar was abolished by Napoleon on January 1, 1806, and thus, France, one of the first countries to adopt the Gregorian Calendar in continental Europe, became the only country to abandon and then subsequently re-adopt it! (Gasp!)

15. Howard Mansfield, Turn and Jump: How Time and Place Fell Apart (197 pages; Down East Books; 2010); Bill Kauffman, "The Tyranny of the Clock," The Wall Street Journal, p. A13 (August 11, 2010). This book is a series of essays on the cleavage of time and place. Before the year 1883, before the coming of the railroads, and travelers had to meet passengers at the station on time, most people in the USA thought it preposterous that two places within 100 miles of each other needed to share the same time of day. Now in the Internet age, we know better. But on a more philosophical note, all of our days are likely to end in a cemetery in which time collapses. Whether we're wearing a Timex or a Rolex, we will soon learn to appreciate that time relentlessly ticks from femtoseconds, to nsec, to microseconds, to milliseconds, to seconds, to minutes, to hours, to days, to weeks, to months, to years, to decades, to centuries, to millennia, and so forth, but ultimately to a time when time no longer matters, since we're wearing a hospital ID-band on our wrist and not a wrist watch.

16. Venerable Bede "The Reckoning of Time" (Latin: De Temporum Ratione) is an Anglo-Saxon era treatise written in Latin by the Northumbrian Monk Bede in 725 AD. The treatise includes an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical Earth influenced the changing length of daylight, of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the New Moon at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the tides at a given place and the daily motion of the Moon. "The Reckoning of Time" describes a variety of ancient calendars, including the Anglo-Saxon calendar. The focus of De Temporum Ratione was calculation of the date of Easter, for which Bede described the method developed by Dionysius Exiguus. De Temporum Ratione also gave instructions for calculating the date of the Easter full moon, for calculating the motion of the Sun and Moon through the Zodiac, and for many other calculations related to the calendar.

17. Poul-Henning Kamp, "The One-Second War: Finding a Lasting Solution to the Leap Seconds Problem Has Become Increasingly Urgent," Communications of the ACM, Vol. 54, No. 5, pp. 44-8 (May 2011).

18. Curiously, this difference in calendars can lead to confusion in the real world. The GRG actually validated the case of a woman born in Russia in 1896 but who died in Germany in 2008 with a discrepancy in the date of birth by a few days on the German Death Certificate. So what day was she really born? Actually both dates were correct. This seeming difference was secondary to the fact the Russians at the time of her birth were using a Julian Calender, and they didn't change over until the 1920's!

19. Like the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples,, the Maya followed not one calendar but two: a 365-day civic calendar (for planting) and a 260-day religious calendar (almanac) running concurrently. The two synchronized about every 52 years. The Maya also maintained a so-called long count, an unbroken tally of days stretching back to August 11, 3114 BCE (the day of Creation by their God(s) according to their own Mayan Book of Genesis). [Our Western Civilization reckoning starts with the Birth of Christ (even if you're not a Christian). All commercial airline pilots are required to speak English no matter what national airline they may work for. So much for parochialism.] If they had not become extinct, the Maya would have considered December 21, 2012 as a red-letter day, the completion of a 144,000-day (~400 years) cycle. It would have been marked with ceremonies presided over by their king(s). But this date, contrary to cosmic conspiracy theory (according to certain spiritualists, religious gurus, and apocalypse pushers), would not mark the alleged "end of the world" (a day of Rapture [in which our Sun will align with the plate of Milky Way Galaxy] according to Revelation, the last Chapter of the New Testament). Rather it would have signaled the beginning of a new cycle, resetting the cosmic odometer, just as we solved the "Y2K Problem" on our computers before the turn of the 21st -Century (January 1, 2000). The Mayan civilization was in its prime from [250 - 900] AD with huge cities extending from the Yucatan peninsula to present-day Honduras. Curiously, they had no need to invent maps, nor the wheel, it seems. [20]

20. David Stuart, The Order of Days (Harmony; 2011).

21. 10,000 Years = 400 Generations
Click for a video (TRT - 57:36 min.)

10,000 Year Clock Begins Construction Thanks to $42 Million from Amazon's CEO


by
David Hill

July 14th, 2011; Scale model of The Clock of the Long Now reveals just how big this thing is going to be. The construction of a modern wonder of the world is now underway in western Texas as the plans for a clock that will tick for 10,000 years have been green lit by the hefty contribution from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. First proposed by Danny Hillis, pioneer of massively parallel computing, in an essay 15 years ago, the clock is a beast that would make any engineer giddy at the multitude of challenges it poses. When built, it'll stand 200-feet tall and will have a spiral staircase carved from limestone that will wrap around the massive gear mechanism and lead to the 8-foot wide clock face. A recent Wired article gave an in-depth look at the project, the nonprofit foundation that was created to support the project called The Long Now Foundation and all the project's players while attempting to answer the question, Why the hell would anyone want to build this? The answer: Look to the future.

When Danny Hillis first shared the idea of a clock that would run 10,000 years, his friends either got it or they didn't, though most assumed he wasn't serious. A barrage of how questions naturally follow such an idea. How will it be built? How will it run accurately? How will it be powered? How will people see it? Danny had to research various science and engineering fields in order to create a design proposal (the clock's design is detailed in a free 325-page pdf). But the true test of the clock's feasibility had to be tested in a prototype, which was completed in 1999 and now is housed on loan in the Science Museum in London. The project waited for a patron until Jeff Bezos offered funds and a location to build it, right next to a private spaceport for a venture called Blue Origin, also backed by Bezos.

Like many mechanically driven timepieces, the 10,000 year clock consists of internal gear mechanisms and a clock face. It will have an 8-foot wide, 700-pound stainless steel gear wheel, and a 6-foot, 300-pound steel pendulum will cause the clock to tick every 10 seconds and direct energy from the stone weights into the titanium escapement located in a quartz box to protect it from dust. It will also use solar power to help wind the clock as well as synchronize it to solar noon.

The chime system is generated by 20 Geneva drives with varying numbers of teeth. These drives convert the constant rotary motion of the drive wheel into stepwise rotary motion of a second wheel, providing intermittent turns. The bearing for these wheels are made of a special ceramic that doesn't require lubrication. Together, these drives allow for the almost 3.65 million possible chimes needed to have a unique chime for each day within a 10 millennium span. The chimes are actually being written by musician Brian Eno, who has dubbed it "The Clock of the Long Now."

Finally, the clock face shows the sun and moon positions, a star field of the night sky, and a century ring and year ring to display the year in the "02011" format. Additionally, horizon lines and a rete show what portion of the star field is actually visible at the moment. But the main clock face is not intended to show the actual time (there is a separate face to do that). Instead, visitors have to wind the clock face to show the present time. The point of this is to show how long it has been since the last person visited.

There's no denying that massive engineering projects tantalize the mind with their scope. We recently profiled the behemoth digging machine Bagger 288, China's 26.4-mile Qingdao Trans-Oceanic Bridge , and even the Braun twin's model of the Hamburg airport simply because they're too cool not to. But based on the design of the clock face, it should be clear that this clock isn't intended to be just the World's Largest Timepiece. Furthermore, if the project was about creating the most accurate time piece, they'd just build an atomic clock and bury it deep in the earth. But Danny Hillis has a different intention: to expand the minds of those who visit the clock. How important is this? He was even quoted as saying that the clock was more important than curing cancer because it will make more of a difference to people.

To understand what he may mean, consider a true wonder of the world, the pyramids in Egypt. They are a symbol of the forward-thinking perspective of the Egyptians. They aren't still around today because they happened to go undisturbed for years or because they were respected universally by anyone who saw them. They're around because they were intended to be around forever as an eternal home for the deceased pharaohs. They thought of the kind of life they wanted the pharaohs to have forever. Another example of long-term thinking is part of the inspiration of the 10,000 year clock. The 14th-century builders of New College in Oxford also planted oak trees so that when the roof beams of the hall needed replacing in 500 years, the oak trees would be available. The idea of designing something and ensuring that it would be sustainable far in the future serves as a great inspiration.

In a similar way, the goal of the clock's designers is to make something that helps orient everyone forward in time, something which is increasingly difficult in a short attention-span culture. There are few things that can help people see beyond the next vacation, next holiday or next Super Bowl. But the clock serves to inspire thinking on a much larger time frame. Questions should naturally arise, such as what will the world look like in 1,000 years? 10,000 years? What countries will even be around? What will cities be like and how will people live? When these types of questions begin to be asked, suddenly the actions of the person asking them becomes profoundly more important. In the midst of politics and debate about the environment, transportation, climate change, urban planning, taxes, and so on, it is easy to become complacent and end up focusing instead on the question, "How will all of this affect me?" This clock is aimed to turn our attention outward and ask, "How will all of this affect the people of the future?"

The lingering question for this project is, "Is it really worth $42 million or likely more to get people to change their perspective from the here and now to the future?" Only time will tell, that is, the moment when the clock is built and each person who visits it can answer the question for themselves.

22. The "week" under the Egyptian Pharaohs for stone cutters and pyramid builders was 12 days (10 consecutive work days and then a weekend of two days off for rest) and not the traditional seven days in Genesis we name from [Monday to Sunday] with one day for resting (the Sabbath, in which God rested from the labor of fabricating the universe in six days). Incidentally, the Egyptian work day had two four-hour shifts with an hour for lunch. The time to stop work on each shift was determined by the length of the wicks on the candles. [History Channel TV-documentary on Egyptian Monuments from the Kingdoms of Seti and Ramesses the Great.]

23. Elizabeth Weise, "Proposal To Simplify the Calendar," USA Today, p. 3A (December 30 , 2011).

24. Geneva, SWITZERLAND - - The addition of the next leap second, needed to synchronize atomic clocks with the rotation of the Earth, is planned for Midnight, Saturday, June 30, 2012 [23:59:60 UTC]. Starting in June 1972, this will be the 10th leap second inserted on a June 30th, compared to 15 inserted on December 31st. Click for more details. Astronomers have a long history of keeping multiple time counts using days in the Julian calendar for a running count of days despite the insertion of "leap days" (at the end of the Roman year) and then on February 29th every fourth year for the Gregorian Calendar. We need to insert leap seconds to match our solar day more precisely, which is slowly lengthening as the Earth's rotation slows as a consequence of tidal friction due to the Moon's gravity. Curiously, there is a controversial proposal to abolish leap seconds due to the intrinsic uncertainty associated with its calculation and the present difficulty of keeping automated computer clocks synchronized throughout the world. In the distant future, all clocks world-wide will have an international radio receiver built-in that will recalculate the correct local time as is done now for the USA using a NIST Standard Signal [Time and Frequency Division, part of the Physical Measurement Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology] now originating from Denver, CO; USA. This is probably much more important for the capricious twice-a-year changes in clock-time associated with the transition from Standard Time to Daylight-Savings time and back for each time zone as they are arbitrarily drawn on a map of the Earth than it is for the "problem" of leap seconds as ordinary people don't keep atomic clocks in their living rooms. If it makes you feel more secure, each US nuclear submarine maintains two such identical clocks (for redundancy) side-by-side in their radio rooms for time-and-date stamping of all electronic communications with the outside world whenever they extend their antenna-mast(s) above the ocean surface (periscope depth) without exposing their (secret) location to surface ships in the neighborhood. All electronic communications are encrypted in a secure manner to prevent their interception by adversaries and there are techniques for authentication (rejection of imposters) using cryptography. Although the problem of enemy-jamming (Synflood Attack or Denial-of-Service [DoS]) is a separate issue, it can largely be circumvented by Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) techniques.

25. Carl Bialik, "The Drama of Measuring the Days of Our Lives," The Wall Street Journal, p. A2 (February 25, 2012).
Due to the frictional tidal forces between the Earth and Moon (and Sun), the Earth's rotation is slowing slightly every day, and thus the 24-hour day (Civil Time) is lengthening by [1 - 2] ms every day. Civil Time seconds were once measured by the oscillation frequency of the Cesium-133 atom = 1/86,400th {60x60x24} of a day and so the gap changes daily and that's why we need to inject leap seconds from time to time once a year either on May 31st or December 31st as needed. In the age of GPS satellites, this turns out to be very important. For more details, see The International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service (IERS), established in 1987.

26. Marilyn vos Savant, "Who Decided Where to Place the Zero-Degree Line of Longitude?" Parade Magazine, p. 19 (February 26, 2012).
Until the mid-19th Century, cities all over the world kept their own local time. Some varied the length of an hour depending on the season! Every country had its own idea of when it was Monday and when it was Tuesday. At one point traveling by train from California to Maine required resetting one's watch more than 20 times! In 1884, the US convened delegates from 25 countries, and they decided to fix the prime meridian at Greenwich; UK. The line served as a reference for other time zones and established the International Date Line. In fact, the line zig- zags to avoid dividing countries into two different days.

27. H. Spencer Banzhaf, Associate Professor of Economics at Georgia State University, "Daylight-Savings Time Is Past Its Prime," The Wall Street Journal, p. A11 (November 2, 2012).

28. Wikipedia/Newfoundland_Standard_Time_Zone

29. Jun Ye's NIST Lab in Boulder, CO keeps their Strontium atomic clock at three- millionths of a degree above absolute zero. [J. Ye Nature (February 6, 2014); Andrew Grant, "Quantum Timekeeping," Science News, Vol. 185, No. 5, pp. 22-6 (March 8, 2014).] The clock described by Ye is so precise that had it begun ticking when the Earth formed ~4.5 billion years ago, it would not yet have gained or lost a second. Over that same span, a Swiss quartz watch would stray a few thousand years.