2004-09-01

A modest proposal: 25 hour day

If I could convince you that I know how to achieve the following benefits, you would think I'm a genius, right?
  1. Eliminate jet lag
  2. Extend people's lives
  3. Improve people's health
  4. Remove a major impediment to global commerce
  5. Complete the metric system
  6. Eliminate all problems associated with leap years
Here's the deal. When they put volunteers (?) in caves with no timekeeping devices or time cues of any kind and let their bodies find their natural circadian rhythms, people naturally settle into a 25 hour pattern, instead of 24.

I propose that we take advantage of this observation, revamp our system of time and do it right. Ever since the invention of the light bulb and shift work, the connection between people's sleep-wake cycles and the hours of day and night have been completely disrupted anyway, so it should be no big deal.The precise idea is this. We replace the current day with a New Day (ND) which is about 25.05 hours long. This length is chosen so that there are exactly 350 ND in a year. Since the ND is independent of the daily movement of the sun, there is no need for time zones: the entire earth uses the same time.

Let's think about what this means. No matter where you travel, when you arrive the time is the same as the time in the place you left. Hence benefit #1. With the ND, we all get an extra hour in our day, effectively extending our lives by about 4%. That's benefit #2. The ND corresponds to our natural biological rhythms, hence benefit #3. Benefit #4 results from the elimination of time zones and because everyone's work day is the same. No more scheduling phone calls at odd hours to talk to your remote office!

The adoption of the ND gives us the perfect opportunity to change the definition of an hour to something more metric, so perhaps we have 10 New Hours in a ND, 100 New Minutes in a New Hour, etc. It just makes sense. Time is the one area where the metric system has not had much impact; let's take care of that little problem right now. (Benefit #5)

Since there are now exactly 350 ND in a year, we can have 10 New Months of 35 ND each. Each New Month could have five New Weeks consisting of (in a nod to tradition) 7 ND.

Benefit #6: there is no need for leap years anymore because the ND is defined in terms of how long it takes the earth to go around the sun. Think of the savings in simplified accounting, programming and calendar production! (The same calendar works year after year!)

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most profound. I urge you to join with me to advocate for this elegant solution to many age-old problems. Let us adopt the 25 hour day as soon as possible. A New Day is coming!

Update: I have recently learned of an alternative proposal in the same spirit: The 28 Hour Day which was featured in digg.

5 comments:

  1. I do not follow your logic, how does a 25hr day suddenly eliminate the need for timezones? Your write: "Since the ND is independent of the daily movement of the sun, there is no need for time zones: the entire earth uses the same time" As I read from your text you just suggest a rescaling or the time a day takes - this can hardly make the sun shine in sync on a spherical earth. People still sleeps at night, no matter what scale you divide the day at.

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  2. @please: Lots of people sleep at times other than the night now. And because of artificial lighting most of us have a sleep schedule that is very different from the sun cycle. So the proposal is to just take that to its logical conclusion and sleep when the clock (and our internal biorhythms) tell us to and not worry about where the sun is.

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  3. Thanks for you reply!
    Ok, I see your point, but personally, I would definitely prefer not to have days in total artificial lighting - except specialized lightsources, this will also affect our mood tremendously and be an enormous waste of energy - I think sustainability has to be taken into consideration on both of these levels.
    So while the human organism might be able to adapt, when artificially forced (like they did in the recent NASA study), I dont really see the benefits way up here except in specialized conditions, like spacetravel.

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  4. Anonymous8:13 PM

    http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/1999/07.15/bioclock24.html

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