A proposal for a scientific Datestamp

We’re all accustomed to the BCE or CE suffixes on scientific publications. All of which invariably use the Gregorian Calendar. I believe this to be inherently intellectually dishonest.

Let’s face it, those people know exactly what “Common Era” entails. Either use the BC and AD suffix or don’t use the Gregorian Calendar at all. I have no objections against it, just the notion that we’re stepping on egg shells when we all know what we’re doing by using said calendar.

What’s the alternative?

There are definite benefits to seperating Months, Years, and Days, but science, more often than not, isn’t about minor conveniences. Science is about precision and repeatability. Hence the often used scientific notation of large numbers.

E.G. 2.5 x 105. It’s probably easier to just say “Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand”, but that’s an awful lot more characters. Besides, not everyone in the scientific world uses English as their first language. The scientific notation is immediately recognizable, understood and, more importantly, precise in any language.

Let’s do the same for dates and times. Days, Months, Years and even the exact time down to the second can be expressed in one concise datestamp.

E.G. While writing this sentence, the exact date is 21333.19.59.2.

This datestamp is very easy to caclulate. The number in front before the first period is the number of days since January 1st 1950. The second number is 7 by the 24 hour clock. The third is 59 minutes and the last is 2 seconds. Therefore, tomorrow will be 21334 and yesterday was 21332.

Fans of StarTrek would notice a similarity to Stardates used in that fictional universe. Well the premise of that timeline and date is sound, however its execution was less than… um… stellar.

The year 1950 was chosen by scientists as an arbritary measure to reflect timescales in reference to what is considered “Present”. I.E. Any event before 1950 is “Before Present” or “BP”. I think it’s a good idea.

If I were to write this date out in English, it would be May 29th, 2008 7:59:02PM. However this is only “standard” in the United States. Elsewhere the date format is the day first, month second and year last. Some other locals may have the year first month second and day last. By always having the days in front and only in numbers, we avoid all this confusion and it is far more precise. You don’t even have to remember AM or PM since it’s all on the 24 hour clock.

Calculating the days between events also becomes easier as it’s just a matter of subtracting or adding numbers. Much like the scientific notation. What’s more, you can even express the time to the last second if necessary.

All this in a blurb less than 15 characters long (including the periods and assuming two digit seconds) for today’s date. You could even memorize the whole thing down to the last second as it’s no longer than a long distance phone number.

Though the inital reference point for calculating Before Present was based on the Gregorian Calendar, it still defines an arbritary starting point. And hence forth it’s on its own reference point.

This is a constructed international datestamp using an existing reference in much the same way Esperanto and Interlingua are constructed international languages using existing reference languages.

To find out the exact date right now, I wrote a little script to help things go forward. It can also calculate a future or past date. It defaults to today’s date and time based on your computer’s time settings (make sure it’s accurate). Try putting in a value before 1950 and you get a negative date value. No more “Before” or “After” nonsense. It’s all purely numeric.

7 thoughts on “A proposal for a scientific Datestamp

  1. Good to see the Esperanto reference, but I wonder how many people know that it already is a living language, which does not apply to Interlingua.

    Interestingly, as well, eight British MP’s have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008

    You can see confirmation of this on http://www.esperanto.net

  2. Hi Brian, thanks for the comment.

    I know several people who natively speak Esperanto, as well as Interlingua. Which is why I made a reference to both.

    There are merits to both languages as well as some limitations. I believe it’s impossible to fix these limitations as long as adherents to both languages insist on strict seperatism.

    Interlingua has an instant recognizability and comprehension (to some degree) that Esperanto lacks. This makes Interlingua already a foot in the door to an international language.
    But Esperanto is better defined and better organized. Esperanto is also more normalized than Interlingua and it isn’t as arbitrary with certain syntax. Both languages have their strong points.

    The only way to produce a true universal language and ensure its adoption is to apply lessons learned from both languages.

  3. The “Captain’s Log: Supplemental” introductions kinda throw a wrench in things. But anyway.

    I much prefer saying “Merry Christmahanakwanzaromadonnukah” to “Happy Holidays”. Eggshells inevitably break; why waste the effort trying [futilely] to walk on them?

    I must say, though: your script is pretty awesome. I played with it for longer than is probably kosher.

  4. HAHA Thanks! :D

    Mind you, I do enjoy the Christmahanakwanzaromadonnukah greetings too. In fact, I celebrate Christmas, which causes my Buddhist family to raise a few eyebrows. It isn’t the spiritual side of the holiday that I celebrate, but the sentiment.

    But this BCE and CE thing really got me upset.
    I think it’s political correctness gone way too far and, worse yet, they know it too. They’re trying to appease everyone (poorly), which isn’t what science is about. Science is about discovery and the truth.

    If they continued to use BC and AD suffixes, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I got into some trouble a while back on a paper because I didn’t use BCE and CE. My response was “who are we fooling?” which didn’t make things any better :P

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  6. Me place multissimo que iste gruppo ha essite organisate. Io ha organisate un blog, “Interlingua multilingue” pro usar interlingua como un ponte pro inseniar su linguas fonte (le anglese, le francese, le italiano, le espaniol/portugese, considerate como un sol lingua, e le latino). In iste momento, io ha montate circa 530 articulos a iste sito.

    “Interlingua multilingue” presenta articulos in interlingua e al minus un de su linguas fonte. Usque nunc io ha montate circa 530 articulos a iste sito.

    “Interlingua multilingue” appare in duo sitos. Un es http://interlinguamultilingue.blogspot.com e le altere es http://hkyson.wordpress.com.

    “Interlingua multilingue” es dedicate al proposito que un excellente maniera de apprender un nove lingua es comparar textos bilingue in le lingua que vos apprende e un altere lingua que vos jam cognosce.

    Si vos es un partisano de altere linguas planificate, vos es benvenite a copiar le articulos de “Interlingua multilingue” e traducer o adaptar los pro vostre proprie uso. Isto poterea esser un maniera excellente pro rapidemente preparar nove textos pro studio in vostre lingua planificate preferite, sia un conlang existente, sia un nove conlang que vos inventa.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

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