Science Illustrated

Life Would be Simpler with a 13th Month

Our present calendar was invented more than 2,000 years ago, and its changing holidays and quarters cost society billions annually. Two scientists want to fix the mess left by a bunch of monks, and give us a new, improved calendar.


Our present calendar is, at best, a compromise, designed to keep our months in sync with the seasons. That's fine for harvesting grain, but ironically we need time itself to be a bit more granular, these days. Employers and accountant­s often complain about the Gregorian calendar’s lack of logic, which constantly requires the correction of work schedules and accounts. But now, astrophysi­cist Richard Henry and economist Steve Hanke from Johns Hopkins University in the US want to introduce a new, rational calendar that can clear the mess and save the world economy, they say, billions of dollars. The new calendar always begins on a Monday, and all quarters are exactly the same length. The two scientists hope that on 1 January 2018, the entire world will say goodbye to the old calendar and adopt the Hanke Henry calendar. Its probably a pipe dream, but if it comes true, we can look forward to a more logically organised year.


Basically, the new calendar is organised in the same way as the existing one with 12 months and 52 seven-day weeks. But in order to make all years begin on a Monday and end on a Sunday, the number of days of a year needs to be divisible by seven. So, the scientists have reduced a year to 364 days. On average, Earth takes 365.24 days to orbit the Sun, so the two scientists must add more days to the calendar, or it will gradually get more and more out of step with the seasons, and Australia's Christmas will end up in the winter (and worse, in summer for Santa himself). The solution is a leap week, which is added once every five or six years. By adding an entire week, the scientists make sure that the number of days in a year can still be divided by seven.

Hanke and Henry have also adjusted the length of the months, so the year can be divided into four identical quarters consisting of two months of 30 days and one month of 31 days. According to Henry and Hanke, the regularity will make it much more simple to keep company accounts and make financial

The present chaos of time zones, daylight saving time, and calendar difference­s would be over.

Steve Hanke and Richard Henry // The scientists behind the new calendar in an article in the Globe Asia business magazine

calculatio­ns. The existing calendar’s irregular quarters force economists to make inconvenie­nt, temporary solutions to the detriment of society as a whole.


Today, the calculatio­n of loan interest rates or bond yields is simplified by assuming that all months include 30 days, but the simplifica­tion makes the calculatio­n inaccurate, and the constant errors are potentiall­y expensive for authoritie­s, companies, and citizens alike.

For instance, the existing calendar had a major impact on the stock market back in 2012, when the price of electronic­s giant Apple’s stocks fell by 10 % due to a quarterly financial statement that was "disappoint­ing" as compared to the same quarter in 2011. But the income difference was due to the fact that the 2011 quarter had been one week longer. The extra week in 2011 had been added in order to correct the irregulari­ties of the calendar. Hanke’s and Henry’s new, rational calendar divides the year into regular sections that allow for more simple calculatio­ns without errors.

The two scientists also want a year that will be much easier to plan. Due to the existing calendar, huge quantities of time and effort go into making new work schedules every single year, especially teacher having to struggle with complex exam schedules, curricula, days off, and holidays over and over again. If all years are the same, this can be done once.


Over time, several attempts have been made at reforming the calendar, and like in the case of Hanke and Henry, it has often been motivated by the wish to make all years the same. But time and time again, the existing calendar has proven too well integrated and popular to scrap. So, we still have a calendar that, apart from some 500-year-old tweaks, is more than 2,000 years old. It was developed by none other than Julius Caesar.

Originally, the Roman calendar followed the phases of the Moon, and a year lasted 355 days. But this model of year quickly fell out of step with the seasons, which caused big problems for the backbone of civilisati­on: farming. In 46 BC – the year before Caesar’s calendar was introduced – the timekeeper­s added 67 leap days to get the year back on track, before the new system had even begun. That's two months extra, by bureaucrat­ic order!

In the new Julian calendar, the months were the same length as today, and every fourth year included a leap day. But although the calculatio­n of the length of the year was very accurate, Caesar’s calendar fell out of step over time. The Romans couldn't know it with their technology, but its years were about 11 minutes too long. So every 128 years, the year fell a full day out of step with Earth’s cycle around the Sun. So the seasons kept "drifting", just more slowly.

To solve this problem, Pope Gregory XIII updated the calendar system to its present version in 1582. The Gregorian calendar excludes leap years in years divisible by 100, but not by 400. So, 19900 wasn't a leap year, 2000 was (2000/4=500), but 2100 will not be. Yes, the Gregorian calendar still differs from the solar year by about three days per 10,000 years, but Coordinate­d Universal Time adds leap seconds to keep this in check.


Henry and Hanke are far from the first to propose a new calendar. In 1930, World Calendar Associatio­n founder Elisabeth Achelis designed a rationally organised global calendar. Just like in the Hanke-Henry calendar, a year was divided into four identical quarters, and 1 January was always on the same weekday. But to make the calendar follow the solar year, Achelis chose to introduce "world days", which popped up between Saturdays and Sundays of specific weeks and were to be days off.

The world calendar ended up being one of the most popular so far, and it was close to being adopted by the entire world. But in 1955, when the US (as usual) said it would not support the new calendar, the reform was given up. An important reason for the ditching was religious resistance. Due to the world days, some weeks would include eight days, and this was troubling to followers of holy books stipulatin­g a seven-day week, such as the Christian Bible, the Islamic Koran and the Jewish Tanakh .

Hanke and Henry have avoided making the same mistake, as every week of their calendar includes seven days (even though 10 might be better), which gives them hope of a better chance of success. The resistance now has to do with the major cost of carrying out a global calendar change, but the scientists promise that the calendar will quickly earn the world economy hundreds of billions of dollars.

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 ??  ?? During the French Revolution, the country tried to get rid of the old Christian calendar and introduce a more modern system.
During the French Revolution, the country tried to get rid of the old Christian calendar and introduce a more modern system.

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