Practical Solutions Metric Time and the 1,000 Hour Day

About a practical proposal for the use of metric time and the one thousand hour day.



Why We Need the 1,000-Hour Day

Now that the metric system has entered our lives somewhat and will someday soon be in common use, why don't we go all the way and use a decimal system for time as well? If we are to have kiloliters, kilograms, and kilometers, why not a kiloclock?

We can't change the fact that the earth rotates 365 1/2 times while completing its journey once around the sun. Any monkeying around with that 365 1/2 figure and we will be in more trouble than we can handle.

But we can consider changing the measurement of one day, during which period the earth rotates once upon its own axis. At present, that time period is divided more or less by choice into 12-or-24-hour clocks, the hours of which are divided further by 60, not just once, but twice. This supplies us with 86,400 basic units of time per day, popularly known as "seconds."

Dividing the day in a metric or decimal fashion, we would satisfy the needs of all those who complain that days are not long enough by establishing a 1,000-hour clock, a kiloclock! Think of it, 1,000 hours each day! And this day can be divided by another 10,100, or 1,000, providing up to 1 million units from sunup to sunup.

For common use, a 1,000-hour day would eliminate the need for seconds and even minutes. It works out that each 1/1,000 of a day, our new time unit, is equal to 86.4 old seconds. Conversely, one second, old style, contains .011574 new time units. This is close enough for anybody.

Six A.M. on the old system will become simply 250 on the new. Those who used to arrive home from work at six in the evening will now arrive at 750, and if you have been accustomed to dining at exactly 7:30, watch for 812.5. Actually, the ".5" is only 43.2 seconds, so ignore it. You can't finish your drink and get to the dining room that fast anyway.

Your favorite TV program, which used to be scheduled for 9:00 P.M. now shows up at 875, and if you watched until the end of the late show at 1:30, you will now be turning off the idiot box at 62.5.

To see how this will affect some other daily routines, it will be helpful to further divide the time units by another 10. If you like your eggs boiled three minutes now, set your timer, the new one, at 20.83, or if 2 1/2 minutes is preferable, at 17.36. Obviously, that will mean an improvement in egg-cooking accuracy.

Other advantages of the kiloclock are innumerable. Here are just a few: (1) no conversion from seconds and minutes to hours, just add or subtract the numbers; (2) plenty of time to get things done; (3) a new chance to establish some realistic times for things or duties that have got out of control, such as the two-hour TV special, or the five minutes between classes at opposite ends of the campus.

To be fair, let's examine all of the disadvantages. Watchmakers may have difficulty getting that many divisions on anything small enough to fit the wrist.

That's all.

Fred Sterns

Holland, Mich.

Source: Reprinted from Harper's Weekly (May 30, 1975).

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