The center of the world

Voyage au centre de la terre by Édouard Riou for Jules Vernes novel of the same name.

Voyage au centre de la terre by Édouard Riou for Jules Verne’s novel of the same name.

After yesterday’s contemplation of up and down, I found myself facing the date, and considering the location of the center of the world.

The date was, in American notation, November 12, 2013, or 11/12/13. The next to last “consecutive” date this century according to several sources (the last being next year, on 12/13/14). This would be true if we all notated dates in the same manner.

Seeing that we can’t all agree what the numeric representation for the year should be, I found the concept that there might be a “right” way of expressing the date rather humorous. In the course of researching which standard is considered correct, I couldn’t help laughing out loud when I found the description of ISO 8601 referred to as “big-endian“. My thoughts had started with the Lilliput vs. Blefuscu approach, each side seeing itself as the center of the world, and here was a reference in “serious” papers.

In ISO 8601, dates are properly referred to with the year, then month, then day, YYYY-MM-DD, ignoring the American model (MM-DD-YYYY) and the “European” model (DD-MM-YYYY). The combined populations of Europe and America is roughly one billion people, there are at least twice as many computers in the world, and they find it easier to sort dates if the most significant number is first (year). There are six billion other people, some using different calendars, but it is “Europe” and America that bicker about which is the center of the world.

ISO 8601 still supports that the Royal Greenwich Observatory is the center of the universe, The time zone once referred to as Greenwich Mean Time is now “Universal Time” so when it’s tea time in London it really is tea time on Uranus. The Americans managed to get one final dig in on the Brits. Contrary to the notation of twenty four hour time, in which Midnight is 0000, the “Prime Meridian” is the last of the twenty four zones, noted Z or phonetically “Zulu”.

In ISO 8601 notation, there are no “consecutive” dates, as the limits on number of months and number of days does not fit the format, but if you ignore zeroes, the six digits 23-04-05 in 2023, or the eight digit 2345-06-07 in 2345 will be the next. Our last would have been in 2012, 12-03-04 or in the thirteenth century on 1234-05-06.

In life, time and space go on inside and outside of you, or within you and without you depending on your choice of words. When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find peace of mind is waiting there.

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