Oh. Hey. One of the digits in the year changed last night.

Wasn’t it exciting? Not as exciting as that year when all four digits changed at once.

I think we should change the system and base the calendar on an arbitrary event that occurred 999,999,999 years ago so that we can all explode in paroxyms of joy next January. And once precedent has been set, we can start rerooting the calendar on any thing we want, any time we want, and get that thrill all the time. And remember, it doesn’t have to be based on a real event: we could have the year when the dating system reflected the long, long ago of the Star Wars universe, or on when Bilbo met some trolls in the woods.

Comments

  1. chigau (違う) says

    If the event needn’t be real, let’s count toward something.
    This year is -42 until … First Contact or something …

  2. fmitchell says

    Or we could express years in binary and watch digits flip every 2 years.

    Happy 11111011110.

  3. says

    It’s time for the more obnoxious Christians to make too much of the ceremonial deism of the miscounted years since Christ’s birth. And maybe a complaint or two about the use of “CE” and “BCE” instead of the more devout “AD” and “BC.”

  4. Pteryxx says

    from wiki:

    According to a Los Angeles Times report, it was a student’s use of BCE/CE notation, inspired by its use within Wikipedia, which prompted the history teacher Andrew Schlafly to found Conservapedia, a cultural conservative wiki.[90] One of its “Conservapedia Commandments” is that users must always apply BC/AD notation, since its sponsors perceive BCE/CE notation to “deny the historical basis” of the dating system.[91]

  5. petermilley says

    Somehow, despite being an atheist, I managed to have a good time last night. I forgot to revel in my inherent superiority at midnight though; I guess I’m doing it wrong?

  6. Menyambal --- I'll be a monkey's nephew. says

    I once thought up a system where we’d add 10,000 to the years of the common era. That would start things about the end of the ice age, and the beginning of civilization. Turned out somebody else had thought of it, and had got nowhere with it.

    Happy 12014 to all.

  7. says

    You can’t really change the dating system too often, ’cause it makes it hard for historians to figure out how long ago something happened.
    However I personally like the BP system, as used for radiocarbon dating: especially since we are now 64 After Present!

  8. brianpansky says

    @7
    petermilley

    Somehow, despite being an atheist, I managed to have a good time last night. I forgot to revel in my inherent superiority at midnight though; I guess I’m doing it wrong?

    i don’t get it, is this a reference to something?

  9. naturalcynic says

    Ah, well, whatever starting date you use will have somebody that has a solid objection to it. Dennis Short [Dionysius Exiguus] obviously blew it when trying to figure out the year 0. I thought that 1 billion BP might celebrate the invention of sex, but that’s certainly off by a few hundreds of millions of years.
    Ya’ just can’t win.

  10. says

    At some arbitrary point we could celebrate the galactic new year. Either 55 GY for the galaxy itself, or 19 for our solar system. But then we will have to wait around another 230 million years to celebrate again.

  11. Nemo says

    It’s not based on a real event now.

    @6 TxSceptic, I’ve always liked the idea of Years of the (U.S.) Republic, but we probably need something more universal.

    There’s the Space Age or the Atomic Age, but I don’t think they’d go over well today.

  12. unclefrogy says

    as we progress toward more and more use of electronic media for all records and processes the particular calendar we have used to calculate dates will be of a lesser importance as they will be easily converted into each other. Any particular calender dating system seems some what arbitrary any way.
    In the end the dates in the past are far less important the further back you go while dates in the immediate future are much more important like when a shipment is expected or a payment due or a flight scheduled.

    I have often wondered about the beginning dates or beginning times different peoples have for their myths of the origin of people. If there is any truth in them, since we know that none of them are in any way accurate, could they be really more closely related to the cultural beginnings the founding families as it were who through story have been turned into gods and creation.

    uncle frogy

  13. says

    The joy of seeing numbers roll over (such as it is) depends heavily on your having to wait through lots of time when they don’t roll over. I’m chagrined if I miss the major rollovers on my car odometer, even though it’s even more arbitrary than the CE/BCE/BC/AD stuff. It’s all the hours when they stayed static that makes it a thrill to see them change.

    Silly sidenote: As a child I used to think “BC” stood for “Before Christ” and “AD” stood for “After [Christ's] Death,” which would have meant there were no numbers for the years when the dude was alive. This seemed no more absurd than all the other malarkey I was sitting through in Religion class.

  14. davem says

    Everyone knows that years start on the 25th Match; it’s just those pernickety Gregorians who changed it from the one and only true date. Let’s go back, and advance the clock at the same time, to have something worth celebrating!

  15. Lofty says

    Hah, all this obsession with human developed counting systems. Every day after a decent breakfast I say, “have a happy today, peoples.” The cats concurrrr.

  16. says

    Lofty:

    Hah, all this obsession with human developed counting systems.

    Aye, silliness. Most people mark every year passing with a birfday. I’ve never understood the point of “oh, hey, new year, yay” stuff. Be happy you wake up every day.

  17. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Cheeses! Getting kinda grumpy there, aren’t we? And in a petty, stupid way.

    I’m 55, but find childish, even still joy, in lots of stuff I know full well – and have for some time – is, “rationally speaking,” as silly and meaningless as celebrating my next breath. Some joys, like the sun rising (or the earth’s rotation bringing my portion of the planet within sight of it – I wouldn’t want you to think I’m, like, pre-Copernican) or the sound of the rain or the smile of my 22-year-old son, are unremarkable, and all, in this atheist’s universe, are unimportant – except to me during my little lifetime.

    So the fuck what?

    It isn’t the action, but the attitude. The difference for me is from “being” a fool to “enjoying being” the fool; to be wise enough to taste the joy Swift referred to when he said “Happiness is the perpetual possession of being well deceived.”

    Enjoy the group grumbling, though, if that’s your way of feeling alive. I’m not rushing into becoming an old fart, myself. It’ll come, to some degree, without effort and in spite of myself.

    Happy New Year! According to whatever somewhat or even completely arbitrary calendar you’ve been born into using. May you grow up someday!

  18. ChasCPeterson says

    Somehow, despite being an atheist, I managed to have a good time last night. I forgot to revel in my inherent superiority at midnight though; I guess I’m doing it wrong?

    i don’t get it, is this a reference to something?

    Pretty obviously a reference to the OP, of all things.
    PZ’s too-cool-for-school ‘tude rubbed petermilley the wrong way; he enjoys partying on NYE.
    And there’s nothing wrong with that.
    (Like every other habitual bar-rat, I consider it ‘amateur hour’ but am feeling tolerant today.)

  19. stripeycat says

    I have no problems with “any excuse for a party day”. I do take issue with “compulsory fun day”. This applies to Xmas, New Year, birthdays, and any other reason people might give you a hard time for having a bad day today.

  20. says

    Yeah, I kinda agree with imthegenieicandoanything @20. It is a silly thing, as a lot of the things human beings take so seriously are.

    Or rather, it’s a social thing, where we share the experience of having survived another somewhat arbitrary length of time, neither too short to be trivial nor too long to be obscure; celebrate those who have survived with us, and commemorate those who didn’t; drink, chat, dance, eat, in the age-old human way.

    The date and time aren’t really significant — the actual winter solstice would make more sense, I guess, but our present calendar doesn’t accord that slightly movable date any special place — but due to the fact that we do have this universal time system, and the almost universal date system, and these magnificent hypercephalia, the time when all or some of the zeros click over is easily recognisable, and so easy for everyone to agree to as a mutually-agreeable time to party.

    I don’t know who gives New Year’s celebrations any importance other than an excuse for a knees-up, so railing against it seems frankly curmudgeonly, PZ. Impale me on a stick of holly if you must, but Happy New Year, anyway.

  21. David Marjanović says

    This year is -42 until … First Contact or something …

    Well, the date of birth of Zefram Cochrane is known… soooo…

    However I personally like the BP system, as used for radiocarbon dating: especially since we are now 64 After Present!

    Yes, I love that.

    Dennis Short

    Not just “short”, but “tiny”.

    Let’s go back, and advance the clock at the same time, to have something worth celebrating!

    You celebrate the advancing of the clock!?!?!

  22. PDX_Greg says

    Hey, what’s the problem with an annual excuse to take a day off work and party, and one that is generally free from the heavy hand of religion?

    I thought that 1 billion BP might celebrate the invention of sex, but that’s certainly off by a few hundreds of millions of years.

    Yeah, it’s a bit hard to pin down the year of the first sex encounter ever, and I imagine it was pretty awkward for at least one of the organisms involved. However, it is apparent that some people first started to get good at it a few thousand years ago, when the earliest scriptures were written; hence the obsessive anti-sex theme of the writers, who were apparently so comparatively bad at sex that they wanted to scare everybody else into thinking that an invisible, omnipresent, always-angry God would smite them for so much as getting aroused.

  23. raefn says

    How about the Oxygen Catastrophe as year (ok, maybe decade or score or century? I have no idea) Zero? It killed all the life for which oxygen was toxic, and it triggered an Ice Age. I find that more meaningful than a fictional Jewish teenage girl giving birth.

  24. Akira MacKenzie says

    Yeah, yeah, I know that it’s completely arbitrary, but as holidays go Western New Years Eve is pretty fun… At least it was before all my friends made the mistake of getting married and reproducing. The presence of brats has a tendency to put a stop to late-night debauchery, and the absence of children in my life often makes me glad I’m going to die a bachelor (although the lack of sex sure does suck).

    Still my New Years Eve was OK. My dad and I had a shrimp boil for dinner and spent the night sitting by the fire watching RiffTrax and reading a new RPG book. Then I jumped out of my socks at midnight when the neighbors started setting off fireworks.

  25. Abhoth The Unclean says

    Or,as in Ursula LeGuins The Left Hand of Darkness, every new year is the yaer One and all the past years change to. Year 2 is last year, year 3 is the one before and so on

  26. David Marjanović says

    Hey, what’s the problem with an annual excuse to take a day off work and party, and one that is generally free from the heavy hand of religion?

    They’re trying, though. Did you know that January 1st is the High Feast of Mary, the Mother of God? …Yeah, me neither, before I read it recently.

    How about the Oxygen Catastrophe as year (ok, maybe decade or score or century? I have no idea) Zero?

    Currently it can’t even be pinpointed to ten million years, and it may well have taken that long or longer. A hundred million years wouldn’t surprise me. Keep in mind there’s not a mass extinction in the fossil record or something like that; the fossil record of those times is way too bad to tell.

    I’m fine with this year being 64 After Present.

  27. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    I’ll take any excuse for a party, and the beginning of a new year seems to be one of the more logical excuses I have.

  28. moarscienceplz says

    Pteryxx #5

    One of its “Conservapedia Commandments” is that users must always apply BC/AD notation, since its sponsors perceive BCE/CE notation to “deny the historical basis” of the dating system.

    Hmmm… since Herod the Great almost certainly died in 4 BC/BCE, and yet according to the Bible he was trying to kill baby Jesus, how’s that “historical basis” for a 1 AD Jeebus birth year workin’ for ya, Mr.Schlafly?

  29. lpetrich says

    As to the first sexual organism, it would have been an early one-celled eukaryote. At the cellular level, and among one-celled organisms, the sexual cycle goes like this:

    diploid – meiosis – haploid – cell fusion – diploid

    with either or both of haploid and diploid phases capable of doing ordinary division, mitosis. Isogamy, both sexes looking alike, is common among protists and fungi, and it seems to have been the ancestral state. Some organisms have more than two “mating types” or sexes. They don’t all have to come together, just two with different types.

    I’ll list the major groups of eukaryotes and bold their names if they are known to have a haploid-diploid cycle with meiosis and cell fusion. The unbolded ones have some evidence of meiosis in some of their members, usually of meiosis-related genes.

    Opisthokonta (animals, fungi)
    Amoebozoa
    Archaeplastida
    SAR (Stramenopiles, Alveolata, Rhizaria)
    Excavata

    So this cycle is likely ancestral.

    When did this ancestor live? A clear lower limit is from Bangiomorpha pubescens fossils from 1.2 billion years ago. It is recognizable as a red alga. A hand-waving upper limit is from the Great Oxygenation Event of 2.2 billion years ago. Since eukaryotes ancestrally have mitochondria, it would have been hard for them to survive before lots of oxygen.