Why Researchers are Proposing a new Permanent Calendar

It’s been noted that time is our most important asset. Countless hours are spent planning countless hours, days, weeks and months and all of these involve a calendar of some type. By simply powering up a computer or smartphone and clicking on the calendar page or (if more of a traditionalist) whipping out a printed “organizer” notebook, anyone can quickly determine where they need to be at 2 pm, what day a spouse’s birthday falls on and how far behind they are on any number of deadlines!

Because of their ubiquity, calendars are pretty much taken for granted. However, as a system for organizing dates for social, religious or civil activities, a calendar is surprisingly complex. Two scholars at Johns Hopkins University believe that the modern day calendars are a little too complex or at least outdated and they have come up with what they believe is a better alternative.

According to a December 2011 press release issued by the university, Richard Henry, an astrophysicists in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Steve Hanke, an applied economist in the Whiting School of Engineering have developed a new form of calendar in which “each new 12-month period is identical to the one that came before, and remains that way from one year to the next in perpetuity.” While there have been other attempts to modify the current calendar model over the centuries, many experts feel that this Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar has the potential of getting support from everyone from business leaders to soccer moms.

The Gregorian Calendar

The current calendar available on hundreds of millions laptops, smartphones, pocket organizers and promotional calendars available at the corner pharmacy has been in place for over four centuries and is known as the Gregorian calendar. According to author E.G. Richards in his book “Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History” in 1582, Pope Gregory changed the calendar that had been instituted in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar.

During this period of history, the pope had sufficient power to institute such fundamental changes as the changing of the calendar and he dispatched a team of experts to do so. While this effort was ostensibly taken to better coordinate Caesar’s calendar with the seasons, there were also religious reasons for this change including the admonition found in the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day.

The Advantages of the Permanent Calendar

The mathematical experts chosen be Pope Gregory to change the calendar did a remarkable job of juggling given the inherent and nagging problem that each Earth year is 365.24422 days long. The proposed Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar “deals with those extra ‘pieces’ of days by dropping leap years entirely in favor of an extra week added at the end of December every five or six years.”

With the Hanke-Henry calendar, the months of September, June, March and December would all have 31 days and all of the rest of the month would consist of 30 days. In the release, Henry notes, “Our plan offers a stable calendar that is absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the permanent, rational planning of annual activities from school to work to holidays.” He further adds that “attempts at reform have failed in the past because all of the major ones have involved breaking the seven-day cycle of the week, which is not acceptable to many people because it violates the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day.” The Hanke-Henry calendar never breaks this cycle.

Other advantages of the proposed permanent calendar relate to business and commerce. National holidays such as Christmas would fall on the same days each year as would birthdays. However, financial instruments and calculations would benefit the most. Hanke noted, “Determining how much interest accrues on mortgages, bonds, forward rate agreements, swaps and others, day counts are required. Our current calendar is full of anomalies that have led to the establishment of a wide range of conventions that attempt to simplify interest calculations. Our proposed permanent calendar has a predictable 91-day quarterly pattern of two month of 30 days and a third month of 31 days which does away with the need for artificial day count conventions.”

In addition to overhauling the calendar, the two scholars want to simply the way the world keeps time. They propose the abolition of world time zones and the adoption of  “Universal Time” (formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time) in order to synchronize dates and time and streamline international business. With the interconnectivity of world markets, this proposal has a great deal of merit.

If it Ain’t Broke

There’s an old adage, usually offered by well-meaning but change-averse people that states: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” However, humans have what seems to be a biological urge to improve or fix things, whether they need fixing or not.

Sometimes, this tendency to tinker results in technological break-through (e.g. Google engineers figuring out how to index the Internet) while other times business debacles occur (e.g. New Coke). Whether the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar is former or the latter remains to be seen. In this case, time will literally tell.