Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Standard Chronomenclature (2009†02•12º)

Various ways of writing and numerically abbreviating dates exist in different countries. This can be confusing when you find a document dated 02-03-04 and have no way of knowing if the creator of the document was thinking in American, Australian, British, German, French, Swedish, or another way. February 3, 2004, March 2, '04, and March 4, 2002 are among the possible interpretations. 

The most logical way is to follow the system which is implicit within numerals themselves, that of placing larger units to the left and smaller units to the right. This has the added advantage of placing your files or photographs in order when used in alphanumeric file systems. 2009-02-12 will come after 2007-02-12, 2009-01-12, and 2009-02-11, for example. 

However, aside from placing numerals in the correct or at least logical order, I have often toyed with alternative date representation systems which would reduce the ambiguity of the unadorned number by linking it with a convenient abbreviation not unlike the m, k, cm, and other units. This is needed because people will not adopt the international system overnight, or even within their own lifetimes. 

For a time, I found that writing the year as four numerals makes that clear enough, and writing the month in Roman numerals was attractive, but that completely negates the advantages discussed with data in computers. 

Something similar to the Japanese 年 月 日system (e.g. 2009年2月12日) would be ideal. These characters represent year, month (or moon) and day (or sun). Looking at the (Roman) keyboard viewer, I think the best available characters are †(option+t), •(option+8), and º(option+0) or alternatively ˚(option plus k). Since we have a Christian calendar, plop a cross thingy right down there after the year (†). The four quadrants represent the four seasons and the Earth's travel through these quadrants in its orbit. The moon is often associated with a crescent but a parenthesis is the only thing close to that, and is reserved for other uses, so consider instead the moon as a reflective, mostly dark body (90% black, albedo 0.1). Represent it with the •(option and 8 on a US keyboard). That "bullet" also reminds us that the moon was created when a large body tore through the early Earth like a bullet. Last but not least, there is the day. The day is best represented by the sun, or in this case, the degree sign º(option+0(that's a zero)) or ˚ (option+k). The really nice thing about that is that a degree is considered 1/360th of a whole (circle), and a day is 1/365.25 of a year.Close enough!  Actually, using 0 may be a superscript (?) while k is a degree sign. Depending on whether you think you will confuse today's temperature with today's date, one or the other may be preferred.  

I'd like the world to adopt this by next Tuesday, 2009†02•17º. (Everybody needs a few days to adjust.) Please make a note of it. (Persons over 65 have until 9†3•1˚.) Just remember Option/alt and t8k. (Your mnemonic is "ALTer Tate, Kay" or "Alt/t80"). 
[alt/t/8/k] OR [alt/t/8/0]

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