last day of the 2nd millennium

Alex LIVINGSTON alex at
Sun Dec 31 09:21:36 UTC 2000

Today (Sunday, 2000-12-31) is the last day of the the 2nd Gregorian 
millennium, the 20th Gregorian century, the 200th Gregorian decade, 
and the 2000th Gregorian year.

Happy 3rd millennium!

Sorry if this is off topic for the tz discussion list, but for those 
on it who promote "origin zero", what do you say to the following?

Claiming that the epoch of the Gregorian calendar was at the 
beginning of a year "0" immediately before the year 1 is to fly in 
the face not only of history but also of the thriving and abundantly 
tested convention of numbering "1" the first in a sequence of 
discrete entites, whether periods of time or pages of a newspaper. 
Outside digital electronics and computing, where the technology 
justifies them, exceptions to this convention are extremely rare and 
often questionable.

The distinction between numbering the items in a sequence and 
specifying a quantity, such as the number of billiard balls on a 
table or the length of a piece of string, is crucial: it has been 
unavoidable so far in human history and there are no signs that this 
is about to change.

The years of the Gregorian calendar comprise such a sequence: the 
numbers they are labelled with apply to discrete periods of a whole 
year, not to a continuum of instants, as for times of day. Their 
numbering is not, should not, and should not have been, an exception 
to the rule. Dionysius Exiguus did the right thing (and I'm sure he 
did have a "concept of zero").

What do you want to call the number-one bestseller and the number-one 
hit single, and what about the expressions "numero uno", "A1", and 
even "ace"? How do you want to number children in a family ("my 
number-0 son"?), lines and verses of a poem or song, volumes of a 
book, places in a race (0, 1, and 2?), lanes in a swimming pool, 
houses in a street, faces on dice, cylinders in an engine (think of 
firing order), weeks of a semester or term and, most glaringly, days 
of a month and months of a year?

Allowing an exceptional "origin zero" for the discrete whole-year 
periods of a calendar is to defy the KISS principal. In fact, I think 
the term "origin" is being abused in such a case anyway: in 
mathematics it applies to the measurement of quantities, not to the 
numbering of sequences.

I've heard this year being referred to as mathematically the last of 
the old millennium, but emotionally the first of the new. Well, I 
hope I'm helping to make it emotionally what it is mathematically.
Macintosh and Lotus Notes Support / Information Technology (IT)
Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM)
UNSW SYDNEY NSW 2052 / Australia

Facsimile: +61 2 9931-9349 / Telephone: +61 2 9931-9264
Time     : UTC+11---[last Mar. Sun.---UTC+10---[last Aug. Sun.---UTC+11---

At end of today, Sunday, December 31,
   time since epoch (1-1-1 at 00:00:00)
     = 730485 days = 2000.00000000 average Gregorian years
   time until 3rd millennium, 21st century, 201st decade, 2001st year
     = 0 days = .00000000 average Gregorian years

More information about the tz mailing list