JHU professors propose new calendar

When Johns Hopkins professors Steve H. Hanke and Richard Conn Henry observe a calendar, they see a year's worth of flaws. The two are proposing that the current 12-month, 365-day model be overhauled to ensure that dates fall on the same days of the week year after year.

In other words, Christmas and New Year's Day, which are on Sundays this holiday season, would always be on Sundays. Thanksgiving and Super Bowl Sunday would always fall on the same date, while your birthday, the Fourth of July and April 15's income tax filing deadline would always be the same day of the week.

"The huge advantage is not having to make up calendars every year for every kind of human activity," said Henry, an astrophysicist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, who said he began considering such a calendar about eight years ago while he was compiling his spring class schedule.

He created the calendar using computer programs and mathematical formulas, and when an attempt to draw worldwide interest in calendar reform failed in 2007, he sought the efforts of longtime friend Hanke, an applied economist in JHU's Whiting School of Engineering. He asked if Hanke could explore the economic benefits to such a calendar.

Hanke did find some benefits relating to how days should be counted when making interest-rate calculations. He said, "It would make a nontrivial jump in Gross Domestic Product on a permanent level."

"Factory production would run much more smoothly because you would be able to schedule holidays in an appropriate, accurate way."

The two tweaked the calendar further and since then have begun the task of culling a worldwide audience to consider their proposal. It is now known as the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, and it begins each year on Sunday, Jan. 1.

The current calendar in use is called the Gregorian calendar. It was introduced in A.D. 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, though many non-Catholic countries did not adopt it until years later.

January, February, April, May, July, August, October and November on the Hanke-Henry Calendar are each 30 days long. March, June, September and December are 31 days, and then every five years or so after December there is an extra week (called Xtr) that Henry says "brings the calendar into sync with the seasonal change as the Earth circles the Sun."

January, April, July and October would always begin on a Sunday; February, May, August and November on a Tuesday; and March, June, September and December on a Thursday.

Hanke and Henry encourage the abolition of world time zones and the adoption of what they refer to as "Universal Time," where dates and times are synchronized worldwide.

"Having to put together calendars each year, for sports teams, for schools, for classes and so on, people have to put in a lot of time for that, and they make mistakes," said Henry. "That would all be gone forever; we would have one stable calendar. It would really be a blessing."

Henry said that similar attempts to change the calendar were done at the League of Nations and then the United Nations years ago.

Those attempts failed, he said, because they advocated changes to the calendar that did not respect days of the week. "To religious people around the world the calendar was completely, utterly and totally unacceptable," said Henry, who added that he hopes to take their proposal to the United Nations as well.

"Our new calendar does not have that objection at all," Henry added. "It puts in a new extra week ever so often, so that there's no break in the seven-day cycle of the week. You will be amazed, once it's implemented, how quickly people get used to it, and furthermore very quickly everyone would have the calendar memorized."

Henry and Hanke acknowledge that the United States, which opted not to change its standard of measurements when the world opted for metric, is among the countries that might be most averse to calendar reform. But they believe their calendar will be considered.

"The business community will take a look at it because of the savings," said Hanke. "It becomes attractive, from a business point of view, to look at a calendar that is going to, in effect, save you a lot of time and reduce mistakes."


A previous version of this story gave an incorrect date for the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. The Sun regrets the error.

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