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Professors' proposed calendar synchronizes dates with days

By Melissa Gray, CNN
December 29, 2011 -- Updated 0332 GMT (1132 HKT)
Johns Hopkins professors propose a calendar in which each date falls on the same day of the week as it did the year before.
Johns Hopkins professors propose a calendar in which each date falls on the same day of the week as it did the year before.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Proposed calendar would have 364 days, plus an extra week every few years
  • Each date would fall on the same day of the week every year
  • It's the brainchild of an astrophysicist and an applied economist
  • No longer would every organization in the world have to reschedule every year, they say

(CNN) -- Imagine a future in which you always know the date of baseball's opening day. Or that your birthday is always on a Tuesday (sorry). Or that New Year's Eve is always on a Saturday.

As the people of the world prepare to hang their 2012 calendars, two professors at Johns Hopkins University are proposing one you can keep forever, as each date falls on the same day of the week as it did the year before.

Christmas might always be celebrated on a Sunday, for instance, and Memorial Day Monday could always be on May 28.

Astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry and applied economist Steve Hanke devised the new calendar after years of research and planning. They say their calendar would make it easy to plan annual activities, from holidays to academic schedules to financial calculations.

"Think about how much time and effort are expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every single organization in the world, and it becomes obvious that our calendar would make life much simpler and would have noteworthy benefits," Henry said.

Every third month on the new calendar would have 31 days, with the rest of the months having 30, for a total of 364 days. They would drop the quadrennial 366-day leap years entirely in favor of an extra week at the end of December every five or six years.

The pair say their calendar is different from other alternative calendars proposed in the past because it keeps each week at seven days.

"All of the major (other calendars) 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," Henry says. "Our version never breaks that cycle."

The two men also propose eliminating time zones and adopting a universal time around the world to streamline international business.

Henry had the idea for a new calendar years ago and brought Hanke on board in 2007 to examine the financial implications, Hanke said.

Hanke said he initially told his colleague he thought it would be very difficult, but he kept pursuing it, and finally the "light came on."

From simple mortgages to complex financial derivatives, he said, calculations could be made much simpler if there were only one calendar to use, year after year.

"You have a whole area in the mathematics of finance that could be cleared up, and lots of confusion, lots of error, done away with by going to this calendar," he said.

Hanke said drug prescriptions could be more accurate with a fixed calendar, sports teams could have a fixed playing schedule year after year, and schools and universities wouldn't have to waste time devising each new academic year.

People don't realize the time they're wasting simply because of the variable calendar, Hanke said.

Devising new schedules "happens every year because it has to happen, but it doesn't really have to happen every year if you have the kind of calendar that we're proposing," he said.

Getting the calendar adopted may not be as complex as it seems, but it will probably take time, he said.

Hanke has been involved in currency reforms all over the world, from Argentina in 1991 to Montenegro in 1999 and beyond. In all of those cases, he said, any resistance to the idea of a new currency gradually faded as people realized the benefits.

The same could happen with his proposed calendar, once sectors and groups around the world begin to see how it could simplify things.

He pointed out that airline pilots already use Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, without any mandate to do so. UTC -- formerly called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) -- simply makes things easier for them, he said.

Hanke says he's optimistic about changing people's minds about the new calendar.

"Our job is to get the science right and get the idea ventilated, and make the argument and do the advocacy if it's necessary, and let the chips fall where they may," he said.

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The professors' article on the proposed new calendar is at http://www.cato.org.

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