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Could Year 0 Exist?
"In 532 - Astronomer Dionysius Exiguus confuses the world forever by
declaring the year of Christ's birth AD 1 and not AD 0." In other
words, there was never the year 0. Consequently, a century, as any lot
consisting of 100 things, ends up with a hundred and a new one begins
with 1. So, the 1st century started with year 1 and ended up with year
100. If this is propagated up to 20th century, it is obvious that the
20th century started in 1901 and will end with the year 2000. New
century, 21st, will begin at the New Year 2001 and also a new
millennium, the 3rd one of Christ's era or common era (CE) or a modern
era. Year 2000 is only a nice figure but nothing more than that, just
the last in the 20th lot of a hundred (years).
If we go back to the quote by David Ewing Duncan, from the beginning
of this piece of writing, whose book "The Calendar" (Fourth Estate,
London, 1998) ( http://www.4thestate.co.uk ) is practically all one
needs on the subject, one question remains - Could we have the year 0?
In an attempt at answering this question let us remind to the
existence of intervals and points on a number axis. If we focus our
attention to the segment between -1 and 1, two intervals (-1, 0) and
(0, 1) and 3 points -1, 0 and 1 are evident (See Diagram 1).
-1 0 1
If we map our contemplation about hypothetic year 0 on the axis then,
I suppose, point 0 would be the New Year 0 and the interval between 0
and 1 would correspond to the duration of that year. And in the same
manner interval between -1 and 0 would correspond to the 1st year BC
(Before Christ) (See Diagram 2)
-1 1 BC 0 0 CE 1 1 CE 2
What is wrong in this type of reasoning? It is that we are forgetting
that we are counting (years) and that zero (0) is absence of quantity!
(We are now taking 0 for granted and even foolishly trying to take it
into account, but the notion of zero didn't always exist and certainly
it was unknown in Europe in Abbot Dionysius' time .)
Even on a number axis, 0 is the point not denotation of an interval,
quantity, and from that point onwards 1 whole is being accumulated in
this way: 0.1, 0.2, etc. In some way a number axis reminds us of this:
1 - (-1) = 2, in between -1 and 1 we have only two intervals. Each
interval can correspond to a year, which is also interval or period of
time. Thus, our time scale looks a bit different than the number axis
(the points (tics) denote New Years) (See Diagram 3).
1 BC 1 CE 2 CE
There are other concerns to this issue. Recently I read that some
folks will be celebrating a birthday party for a friend who will be
absent. They were talking about Jesus Christ. Touching, isn't it? In
their invitation they have mentioned that they will be celebrating
2000th birthday of Jesus Christ. Now is the year 1999 and if Jesus
Christ was born in the year 1, as Abbot Dionysius fixed for the
posteriority, he had his 1st birthday in the year 2 (assuming that he
was born on 25th December, the date which correctness we won't discus
here). So, at Xmas day 1999 the "old friend" will be "only" 1998 years
old and his "companions" must wait 2 more years for the anniversary
There are also similar inaccuracies in David Ewing Duncan's book,
common when calculating calendar time, whether days, weeks or years.
Abbot Dionysius' actual task was to produce Easter tables for the next
95-year period. "In his letter to Bishop Petronius, Dionysius
complains that earlier Easter tables used a calendar, which started
its year 1 in AD 284, the year that Emperor Diocletian ascended to the
throne. Under this system, the year Dionysius wrote his letter - which
we call AD 531 - was designated the year 247 anno Diocletiani." If the
first statement (about the starting year of Diocletian's calendar), is
true then it was either AD 530 or 248 anno Diocletiani. Why is this
important at all?
Because, a few lines later we learn that "Dionysius calculated that
Christ was born exactly 531 years earlier - which became his base year
of AD 1", as he wanted to abandon counting years upon Diocletian who
was a persecutor of Christians. If in 531 you state that someone was
born exactly 531 years earlier, than it cannot be year 1 but the one
that precedes it (that would be 1 BC ?!) So, it must have been year
532 (as it is also written on the diagram on a book cover from which
is the quote at the beginning), or our abbot got confused that is hard
to believe knowing how much more complex was calculation of Easter
Closing this "Could year 0 exist?" piece of writing my understanding
is that people are simply careless and that mistake made by everyone,
like this millennium hype, becomes correctness, becomes a rule. But it
is also interesting for studying commercialized behaviour of people.
It is also a kind of paradox that this millennium blunder goes hand in
hand with highly technical Y2K problem that got big public awareness
about importance of preciseness.
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