Power of Zero

Did you know that in Western timekeeping, we keep track of years, months and days differently than we do the time of day?  And not just because there’s 24 hours in a day.

With 24-hour time notation, used in the military and in many European countries, midnight is indicated by “00:00.”  With 12 hour clock time, “00:00” is replaced by “12:00.”  This creates the rather strange phenomenon in which 11:59 am is followed by 12:00 pm. We’re used to it, almost to the point of not thinking about it, but can you imagine trying to explain this to someone not familiar with our timekeeping system?

But this phenomenon doesn’t exist in the Gregorian Calendar.  The first year AD is 1, not zero.  The calendar skips from 1 BC to 1 AD, with no zero in between.  This is partially because when Dionysius Exiguus invented the Anno Domini Era in 525 AD (10225 EE) in an attempt to date the Julian Calendar from Jesus’s birth,  the use of zero as a number did not exist in Europe.  While the concept of zero as number seems to have existed in Mesoamerican cultures going back at least to 36 BCE (9663 EE), it wasn’t adopted in Europe until 976 CE (10676 EE) and wasn’t widely used until after the invention of the printing press in 1439 CE (11139 EE).

As I have said before, the calendar most widely in use in the world today has only undergone minor adjustments since the calendar reforms instituted by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE (9653 EE).  As such, the months and days were based on the same ancient numerical system.  These are referred to as “natural” or “counting” numbers, and are used to quantity, i.e. six apples.  But many calculations are very difficult to do with such numbers–such systems, for example, don’t allow for fractions or decimals.  For these, real numbers become necessary.

Because it’s confusing to have counting numbers and real numbers used in different contexts within the same calendar system, The Earth Epic Calendar uses real numbers across the Board.  This means, then, that the first day of a quarter is 0, then followed by 1 which is the same as the first minute and first hour of the day in 24-hour time.  This, then matches the way years are counted.  The year 1 CE is 9701 EE, and the year 1 BCE is 9700 CE.  Year 0 of the Earth Epic Calendar is then 9701 BCE, which is, in fact, what the International Commission on Stratigraphy adopted as the beginning of the Holocene (with a margin of error of plus or minus 99 years).

The confusion between counting and real numbers became evident in the year 2000 CE.  Many people mistakenly believed that January 1, 2000 began the 21st century CE.  This is, in fact, not true due to the lack of a Year Zero in the Gregorian Calendar.  If the Gregorian Calendar did have a Year Zero, January 1, 2000 CE would in fact have been the beginning of the 20th century.  But then again, might it not be confusing that all of the years of the 20th century began with 19?

While these distinctions may seem confusing to us, there is a very easy way to remember how to use .  The numbers 0, 1, 2, etc. refer to the amount of time completed.  In the current Western time-keeping system, 1 a.m. refers to one hour of the day completed, not the first hour.  Thus Easttide 0 means zero days of Easttide completed thus far, and the first second of Easttide 1 means that one day has been completed. The same applies all of the rest of the units from Eon to Sec, with the exception of Quarters where names are used instead of numbers.

To avoid confusion, it is best to avoid reference to the first Eon, the first year, or the first day of a given period.  We would instead say Eon 1, Year 1, Day 1, etc.  If we must refer to the “first year,” we need to realize that it refers to Year 0, the “second year” refers to Year 1, and so on.