Wouldn't it be convenient if your birthday, Christmas
and the Fourth of July — not to mention most other
major holidays — fell on the same day of the week,
year after year? Wouldn't it make life — or at least
planning — easier, for instance, to know that Dec. 17
would always fall on a Saturday, or that Jan. 1 — New
Year's Day — would always be celebrated on a
Richard Conn Henry, professor in the Henry A. Rowland
Department of Physics
and Astronomy in the Krieger School of Arts and
Sciences, thinks it would. He has designed — using
computer programs and complex mathematical formulas —
a new calendar that would make it happen.
Under Henry's plan, each new 12-month period is
identical to the one that came before. Each month has
either 30 or 31 days. January, for instance, would have 30
days, as would February, April, May, July, August, October
and November. March, June, September and December would
have 31 days.
Henry, a physicist who also directs the
Grant Consortium, says his new calendar would have
"profound economic and practical benefits" if adopted
worldwide. He is waging a Web-based campaign to make this
happen by Jan. 1, 2006. Henry points out that this
transition date is ideal, because New Year's Day 2006 falls
on a Sunday on both the old and proposed calendars,
facilitating a seamless transition.
"Just ask yourself how much time and effort are
expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every
single organization worldwide to accommodate the coming
year's calendar, and it becomes obvious that my calendar
would make life much simpler and would have noteworthy
benefits economically, especially for businesses and other
institutions," Henry said.
"With my plan, we can have a stable calendar that is
absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the
permanent, rational planning of annual activities, from
school to work holidays."
Called the Calendar-and-Time Plan, or C&T, because it
also advocates the worldwide adoption of a 24-hour
universal time scale (more on that later), Henry's
innovation promises to improve on what he sees as the
"defects" of the dozen or so rival reform calendars that
have been proffered by various individuals and institutions
in the past 100 years.
"Calendar reform has always failed before, and for a
simple reason: All major proposals involved breaking the
seven-day cycle of the week, which has always been —
and probably will always be — completely unacceptable
to humankind because it goes against the fourth commandment
of the Bible about keeping the Sabbath day," Henry said.
"C&T never breaks that biblical cycle."
What's more, he said, the C&T calendar is "far more
convenient" than the current Gregorian calendar, which has
been in place for more than 400 years — ever since
Pope Gregory, in 1582, modified a calendar that was
instituted by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.
To bring Caesar's calendar into sync with the seasons
(one of the main reasons for reforming it), the pope and
his scholars removed 11 days from the calendar during that
October, so that Oct. 4 was followed immediately by Oct.
15. The need for that kind of adjustment derived from the
same problem that makes designing an effective calendar a
challenge today: the fact that there is an uneven number of
days in an Earth year — 365.2422 days, to be
Our current calendar tackles this challenge by
instituting "leap years" every four years. Henry thinks he
has found a better solution: Drop leap year entirely and
institute instead a one-week "mini-month" between June and
July every five or six years. In honor of his personal
hero, Sir Isaac Newton, Henry has dubbed this seven-day
period "Newton." His computer calculation ensures that
Newton Week brings the new calendar in sync with seasonal
changes as the Earth circles the sun.
Newton Weeks would bring with them benefits not
enjoyed under the Gregorian calendar, Henry said.
"If I had my way, everyone would get Newton Week off
as a paid vacation and could spend the time doing physics,
or other activities of their choice," he said, only half
jokingly. "You can't say the same of leap years."
Newton Week would pop up irregularly: 2009, 2015, 2020
and 2026, for instance, would all need a Newton Week to
keep the calendar as close to the cycle of the seasons as
possible. As a result, the new calendar is never more than
five days off the seasons. In fact, after Jan.1, 2006, the
C&T calendar would be identical to the current calendar 15
percent of the time and only one day different 29 percent
of the time.
Henry has established what he calls the International
Association for 2006, an online organization aimed at
rallying support for his plan. He serves as president of
the organization, and Jess Cully, a calendar-reform
enthusiast from Portsmouth, England, is now vice president
for that country.
In addition to advocating the adoption of the new
calendar, Henry urges everyone to switch simultaneously to
what is called Universal Time (formerly known as Greenwich
Mean Time). Doing so would synchronize the date and time
worldwide, streamlining such things as international
business and exchange.
"We would quickly get used to the fact that sunrise
and sunset henceforth occur at what seem to us unusual
hours by the clock," Henry said. "My late mother, for
example, successfully switched from Fahrenheit temperature
to Celsius, telling me on one occasion, 'It's a very hot
day — 30 degrees!' That shows me that people are
adaptable if benefits are there. The C&T benefit is much
greater than that resulting from the change from Fahrenheit