About The Author
D. R. Prescott has written a novel, a collection of short stories, a nonfiction book, a collection of essays, planetarium show/display scripts, two family histories, technical articles and business plans as well as written for and edited several newsletters.
Awards and published work include Writers' Journal, Long Story Short, Taj Mahal Review literary journal, The Orange County Register, Writer's Digest, and Writing.com and four books among other challenges.
As a former aerospace executive and planetarium program director, Prescott currently writes and explores life in Orange, California.
"Sentience can be annoying."-DRP Abt. 1990
Since 2008, Prescott has been a regular contributor of
essays and short stories to
The Taj Mahal Review Literary Journal
Alpha Centauri and Beyond Radio Interview of Prescott
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O R D E R T O D A Y !
by D. R. Prescott
We are obsessed by time or, should I say, the passage of it! We measure it, track it and both mourn and celebrate its passage. Calendars run our lives; we rush here, go there and do this or that because it is time to do it, or, worse, because others think it is time we should.
Well, I did a little research. Research is what to do when you are ignorant, have time on your hands, or run out of more interesting things to do! I discovered that we are awash in a sea of different types of calendars. There are the Gregorian, familiar to many of us, the Julian, the Mayan Long Count, the Persian, the Indian, the Hebrew, the Islamic, 1900 date system for PC’s, the 1904 date system for McIntosh and Unix, to name a few! I pause over going too far with this for fear of calendar shock. I am uncertain of the exact symptoms but I must've had most of them before I called it quits. Below are the dates for December 20, 2002 Gregorian in some other measuring systems. I pick this auspicious date only because it is the third Friday of December 2002. I will leave why I didn't pick another day to your assessment of my motives.
All of these dating systems (and, there are more) reek of human parochialism, usually politically, culturally, religiously or technically. Add to that contentious mix, a generous dose of astronomy and believe me, you need a good calendar converter! The system where years are numbered A.D. (“Anno Domini”) and B.C. (Before Christ) probably makes some people uncomfortable, if not downright irritated. The designations CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era) sometimes replace A.D. and B.C. Then, compounding the problem, astronomers tend to use zero, plus and minus numbers, placing a year zero between year 1 and year -1. So, that means that 2 B.C. now becomes year -1! Astronomers convert their B.C. years as the year -(n-1). Confused? Not to worry, it gets worse!
When our calendars were developed, or perhaps more precisely, imposed, most people had no idea that we live in such a huge universe where human beings are not the center of everything and our human moments are lost in the noise. I suspect that extraterrestrials would find our calendars quaint, at best. Admittedly, the Gregorian system we westerners use works fine for everyday purposes, as any other calendar would to a person who is reared with a particular timekeeping system. I was born on February 17, 1944 or, in ISO format, 1944-02-17. That places me in the Age of Mammals, at the Holocene epoch, within the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic Era, which is part of the Phanerzoic Eon. However, it does little to exactly establish where I am positioned in time relative to the whole universe. Unfortunately, I cannot be sure if I was born 12,999,999,944 or 15,999,999,944 years after the start of everything, i.e., the Big Bang. This is particularly annoying since no one has yet pinned down the exact moment of the Big Bang. Is it important? To me, it is! See how quickly we revert to our most basic unit of measure-my time!
Perhaps what we need is just one more, little, itsy-bitsy calendar! Why not? Couldn't we use a calendar that fits everything from the beginning of space-time, and depending on what fate awaits the universe, extends in the opposite time direction to the end of space-time in a final "Big Crunch", or continues indefinitely until whatever fate awaits an open, accelerating universe? Our new calendar should incorporate all calendars and all scientific time scales. It should have, for lack of a better term, an innocuous starting date. Geologists, archeologists, astronomers, cosmologists, theologians, businesspeople and all humans ought to be able to easily communicate in a common calendar language. Further, any new calendar ought to avoid human parochialism as much as possible, and offend as few people as possible.
Where to start? Simple. Start it in the year 2000 AD, our year zero. Everything before and after Gregorian 2000 is counted in ascending order in terms of years, days, hours or seconds away from year zero. Who could be angry with that? The people alive now had the privilege of being here and part of the change. The people who are dead probably won't care. People yet to born will have one less thing to fight about... maybe! So, we simply have Before Then (BT) and After Then (AT). “Then” is measured from the year zero with no special cultural or other significance, except that the calendar's inventors were alive at the moment. I guess you could replace “Then” with “Millennium.” On second thought, the “Before Millennium” abbreviation (BM) might be a tad crude in certain circles.
Easy, huh? If we keep the Gregorian dating method for days, weeks and months, my exact birth date would be 2-17-55 BT, or in ISO format 55-2-17 BT. Remember, -(n-1). My next birthday would be an AT date. After a few generations, our zero point becomes historical enough to not be a problem in most daily transactions. Nothing else has to change. The visual sighting of the lunar crescent will still start the Islamic months at sunset. The Birth of Christ as indicated in our current BC-AD format would still be 2000 years ago, give or take a few years or so. The Molad shel Tohu will still be on the first day of Tisrei in the Hebrew year 1.
Every important human event could be readily apparent without complex calendar conversions. The beginning of the universe is estimated around 13,000,000,000 BT. As always happens, things change as we learn more. So, if the beginning of the universe is determined to be 20,000,000,234 or 12,999,993 years ago, no harm, no foul. No change in our calendar is ever needed. Of course, that also would be true with the Gregorian calendar offset 2000 years, except for a lack of political correctness and no zero-year. Using the BT-AT calendar scheme corrects relational problems and integrates astronomical dating techniques. However, in the bigger picture, existing geological timescales might need our attention. We’ve come this far. Why have reservations about fooling with other dating conventions?
Incorporating time scales used for geological dating into our new scheme requires us to have a common definition of some basic terms like eon, era, period, sub-period, epoch and age. Again, these have been a bit compromised over time and riddled with human parochialism. Our grand scheme needs to satisfy Yoda's as well as Captain Kirk’s needs! Further, we need another designation for various important times in the universe’s history. So I suggest adding the term, Stage, to normally accepted geologic dating terminology. That way we have a universal dating identification system that could be common to all existence, including life on other planets that would surely have their own parochial calendars, which may or may not start an argument about when our year-zero is. With some trepidation, here is my Common Time Scale Model for your review. These definitions are specifically related to each other attempting to achieve internal consistency.
1. Stage: A level or degree in a process of significant development, growth or change while incorporating eons, eras, periods, sub-periods, epochs, ages and events.
a. Minimum time span: > or = 0
b. Maximum time span: < or = infinity
2. Eon: A significant period as a part of a stage.
a. Minimum time span: > 0
b. Maximum time span: < Stage
3. Era: An event or date marking a new or important period of history within an eon.
a. Minimum time span: > 0
b. Maximum time span: < Eon
4. Period: A period of time, sometimes indefinite, characterized by certain events, processes, or conditions within an era.
a. Minimum time span: > 0
b. Maximum time span: < Era
5. Sub-period: A subset of a period.
a. Minimum time span: > 0
b. Maximum time span: < Period
6. Epoch: A period of time considered noteworthy and contains characteristic events, developments, etc. within a period
a. Minimum time span: > 0
b. Maximum time span: < Period
7. Age: Any interval of geological time or period of development within an eon.
a. Minimum time span: > 0
b. Maximum time span: < or = Eon
8. Event: Any point in time or finite interval of time of specific activity, development or process.
a. Minimum time span: > 0 except for the genesis, which equals 0.
b. Maximum time span: Usually, a short period of time compared to other categories.
At this point, we have what might pass as reasonably sound definitions of elapsed time, flexible enough to cover virtually everything. We keep the existing terms and timeframes for the geological timeframes intact for the moment while ensuring consistency in defining their relationships. Addition of the new term, Stage, deserves a bit more clarification. Here is my attempt to integrate existing geological terminology into a larger, if not grander, scheme.
CT Stages and Eons:
1. Genesis Stage: Time 0 through 10-35 seconds. During the first 10-35 second, everything springs into existence according to current theory-truly a genesis. In this fraction of a second, the universe begins to be defined as space, time and energy. Breaking through Planck’s time of 10-43 second, the inflationary universe gives rise to matter among other things by 10-35 second. Genesis equals Time 0.
a. Planck’s Eon: Time 0 through 10-43 second. Quantum gravity barrier.
b. Unification Eon: Time 10-43 second through 10-35 second. Inflation, barygenesis, monopoles, cosmic strings, etc.
2. Transitory Stage: Time 10-35 second through the first 3 minutes. Light elements form, H, He, Li. From 10-35 second through the first 3 minutes of the universe’s existence, the genesis transitions through differentiating the fundamental forces and the formation of the lightest elements that will eventually lead to all matter we know today.
a. Electroweak Eon: Time 10-35 second through10-11 second. Electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces differentiate.
b. Quark-hadron Eon: Time 10-11 second through 10-6 second. Protons and neutrons form.
c. Nucleosynthesis Eon: Time 10-6 second through 3 minutes. By 1 second, protons, neutrons and electrons form Hydrogen (H), Helium (He) and Lithium (Li).
3. Nascent Stage: Time 3 minutes through 10.4 x109 years. After the first three minutes, the universe continues to form, grow and develop. At about 400,000 years, gravitational instability begins the process of building the universe we know today. Around 1 billion years, gravity had time to pull together the clumping hydrogen and helium to start making stars. From 1 billion years through 10,400,000,000 years, the universe continues to grow and develop until sometime around 10 billion years ago a pancake of gases and atoms swirled into our solar nebula.
a. Dehiscence Eon. Time 3 minutes through 4 x 105 years. Gravitational instability. Recombination: relic radiation decouples (cosmic background radiation.) At this point, the universe cooled to about 30000 Kelvin and cosmic background radiation discharges throughout the universe. Today, that radiation has cooled to a little less than 3 degrees Kelvin.
b. Nebular Eon. Time 4 x 105 years through 109 years. Quasars, stars and galaxies form out of clouds of hydrogen, helium and lithium.
c. Daedal Eon: Time 109 through 10.4 x 109 years. Solar System develops around 10.0 x 109 years.
4. Archetypal Stage: Time 10.4 x109 through 15 x 109 years and on through to the end of the expansion phase of the universe, or determination that it will never contract. Archetypal suggests that the model for what we have become was forged in the genesis of this universe’s initial conditions, and, therefore, typical. Discovery of planets about other stars supports this assumption. This stage should go on until some dramatic change occurs such as heat death if the universe is open, or alternatively, the point at which the universal expansion stops and the universe begins an inexorable plunge toward a Big Crunch.
a. Hadean Eon: Time 10.4 x 109 years through 11.2 x 109 years. Earth formation. Note that this eon is truly earth-centered and not applicable to other inhabited worlds, if they exist.
b. Archean Eon: Time 11.2 x 109 years through 12.5 x 109 years. 1st one-celled organisms.
c. Proterzoic Eon: Time 12.5 x 109 years through 14.43 x 109 years. 1st multi-celled organisms.
d. Phanerzoic Eon: Time 14.43 x 109 years through 15.0 x 109 years and probably at least another 10 x 109 years. Earth’s development to date.
5. Finis Stage: Time starting at universal contraction, or determination of an open universe. This stage is subject to futurology. The final state of the universe has possibly three alternatives. If the universe keeps expanding forever, the final state will never be reached until everything comes to a stop and there is no energy left to do work-no heat left or heat death. What happens after that is nothing. Is that possible for eternity-an eternity of nothing?
There is also the idea that our universe is only one of many, perhaps an infinity of, universes where every now and then, a universe appears that is just right for sentient life. In that case, the Finis Stage may have to be renamed or, at least, recognize a new birthing closing a loop between the final stage of one universe and the genesis of another. On the other hand, if the universe contracts after some finite time in spite of dark energy, the final stage will probably last less time that the original expansion since it will be an accelerating process rather than a decelerating process. During expansion, the universe exploded away with gravity tugging at it, decelerating it. While contracting, the universe ought to pick up speed since gravity will assist the process rather than hindering it, providing that it will not be overcome the repulsive dark energy. All that may be true unless dark energy applies an opposite force, which current theorists and some observations have suggested. Other eons would likely have to be added preceding the Finale Eon when more information is available about the fate of the universe.
a. Finale Eon: Time: Probably the last 109 years if a closed universe. If open, simply infinity.
Graphically, this time scale might look something like this:
The shaded areas are my humble suggestions and have no official sanction, anywhere. All I have to do is try to figure how long ago Darth Vader went to the Dark Side and I could place the whole Star Wars saga in the context of this Common Time Scale Model right down to their epoch and age. I wonder if the “Force” came into existence in the Genesis Stage, the Transitory Stage or later. At least, I know it was Before Then. I suspect that the Archetypal Stage will continue for at least another few billion years. That makes it safe to say that the whole Star Trek series and Clarke’s Odyssey serial would be in Archetypal Stage, unless the universe starts contracting within next 1000 years, which appears decidedly unlikely from the data, not to mention, adding a lot of tension to an already tense world.
We have only one wrinkle to iron out--a basic unit of measure to measure a year. We have to rid ourselves of leap years and establish a more basic unit of time. Our day based on the Earth's rotation lacks precision and is too self-centered. To promote the optimum reliability with our calendar, we need a universal-like measure, not the orbital data of one little rock circling a rather non-descript star. So, for lack of a better idea, the frequency of the cesium atom, currently used by the U. S. Geological Survey seems, at least, more precise. That would mean that a second would be equal to the exact frequency of Cesium-133 isotope, precisely 9,192,631,770 cycles/seconds or hertz. This is the most accurate time unit achieved by human beings to date. In fact, it is accurate to 2 nanoseconds per day. Another way to look at it is to say that it is accurate to one second in 1.4 million years, or 1071 seconds (a little less than 17.8 hours) since the Big Bang as currently projected.
There you have it, the whole of existence in one calendar with a reasonably neutral starting time, except maybe for future generations who may challenge the year zero, and a more universal unit of time. As I said before, ‘We measure it, track it and both mourn and celebrate its passage.’ Now, is it time to change it? However, we need to adjust for seasons. How do we do that?
On second thought, we haven't got time. Forget I said anything! What date is it in the Bahá’í calendar? Anyone see my calendar converter software?
© Copyright 2010 D. R. Prescott (donprescott at Writing.Com).
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