Excerpt form the ongoing series Dr. Anna Vasquez Answers Student Questions.
Question: Doctor, why do we still use Earth years? Why don’t we just ditch those and use real years?
Doctor Vasquez: Convention and practicality, mostly. Our days are twenty hours and 16.02 seconds long. Of course we could say “that’s now 20 hours” or even “twentyfour hours”, if you’re a traditionalist. But then we’re redefining units of time, which is another headache entirely. Not to mention you’d need to note for every use of the word “second” whether it’s an Earth Second or a Gibson Second. And the same applies to any other colony world out there, hundreds if not thousands of them. So the Pioneers came up with an easy fix – at midnight, they added 16.02 “leap seconds”. On Earth, 21:00 is a normal hour, on our world it’s used to denote those 16 seconds.
And the same goes for years. A Gibson orbit is 375.74 Earth days, or just under 450 Gibson days. And we don’t really have appreciable seasons here anyway-
Question: Just the hot one!
Doctor Vasquez: (laughter) Yes, except eternal summer. So what use is a year, other than to measure longer timespans, and for astronomy and such? So for all practical purposes we use twelve months of 36 or 37 local days each, and to avoid confusion with the Gregorian calendar we use the Ancient Egyptian month names.
Question: But we also use a Gibson Year, an Orbit.
Doctor Vasquez: Yes, 450 days split into nine months of 50 days each. A “skip day” every eight years, but every 144 years Skip Day is skipped, for a full year. Except every 5040 years we do have to have Skip Day to make it all come out even. It works just as well, I guess.
Question: But isn’t that, sorry Doctor, but isn’t using Earth years just silly?
Doctor Vasquez: Not at all. There have been many attempts to introduce a new calendar throughout human history. The French revolutionaries tried their hand at a decimal one, for example. The only cases where a new calendar was accepted was when it fixed a problem with the previous one. Earth’s calendar hails back to the days of Ancient Rome, and they got most of it from the Babylonians.
Question: If it ain’t broke.
Doctor Vasquez: Exactly.
Question: Do you think our Gibson years – sorry, Orbits – will ever catch on?
Doctor Vasquez: I doubt it, though there are some groups who’re pushing for exactly that. And if we ever regain contact with Earth, or another colony, I imagine we’ll be happy to have stuck with Earth timekeeping as best we can.
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|Earth Month||Gibson Month||Abbreviation||Days|
The Ancient Egyptian month names are: Thout, Paopi, Hathor, Koiak, Tooba, Emshir, Paremhat, Paremoude, Pashons, Paoni, Epip, and Mesori. I picked Ancient Egypt for the same reason I imagine the Gibson colonists chose them: They are fairly short and easy, and they are reasonably “culturally neutral”.
Again, this post continues my effort to only post “in universe” (with the exception of these additional notes), which turns out is pretty difficult for topics that would be common knowledge.
If you haven’t, I recommend you read up on the origin and development of our (Earth) calendar. It’s a fascinating topic.
- First published on Reddit as “Why do we still use Earth Years, Doctor? – Notes on he [sic] Calendar of the Colony on Gibson”.