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'Use my 364-day calendar'

US boffin with time on his hands

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An American physicist has drawn up a new calendar in which every date would fall on the same day of the week, year after year. He says he came up with the new chart because he disliked having to re-draft the homework schedule for students to take account of the dates progressing through the week.

Dick Henry, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University, proposes that instead of the Gregorian 365-day year (with a 366 day leap year every four years) we should move to a 364-day year, with a leap week being added every five or six years.

The advantage of his system is that 364 is neatly divisible by seven, which means we can stick with a seven day week, but do away with dates shifting. Henry says this should satisfy religious leaders, for whom the seven day cycle is traditionally very important.

Some other calendars that would solve the moving week problem have played around with the length of the week. For example, after the French Revolution, the French seriously considered decimalising time; extending the week to accommodate ten days.

Henry's proposal is not unique, however, and it does have one major problem: there is no way of working out from the year you are in if it will contain a leap week. The advantage of the Gregorian system, instituted in 1582 by Pope Gregory, is that its leapday rule is very simple: if the year is divisible by four, it is a leap year. The only exceptions are years divisible by 100, but not 400, which are not leap years.

Henry's system would need us all to keep a leap week calendar alongside our normal calendar. He suggests that this week be dubbed Newton Week, in honour of his favourite physicist.

Critics also point out that a leap week calendar would mean people with midweek birthdays would always suffer the horrifying social isolation of having midweek parties. Henry says that he is quite prepared to celebrate his own birthday (which would fall on a Wednesday) at a weekend instead.

These problems aside, Henry would like to see his calendar adopted on the first of January 2006. He is also pushing for Greenwich Mean Time to be adopted as the default time across the planet, doing away with time zones altogether. (Yes, but then when I am in California, how do I know when lunchtime is? - Ed)

Lots of other leap week calendars that have been developed. This site has a pretty comprehensive, and interesting explanations of some of them. ®

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