Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

My Photo
Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In Praise of 24-Hour Time

Peter Mackie writes ( to complain about Eastgate Cinemas’ time listing for their midnight showing of Paranormal Activity. It had been listed for Friday at 12:01 AM, which he and many other people interpreted to mean a minute after Thursday had expired. Instead, it turned out to mean a minute into Saturday.

I have long bemoaned the stubborn arrogance of the United States when it comes to our failure to adopt the metric system (yes, we are the LAST NATION ON EARTH without it), our monolingualism, the absence of digits on our coins, and many other flip-offs to the rest of the world. Besides being rude, these parochialisms are economically stupid, discouraging tourism and making our non-metric goods harder to sell abroad.

Eastgate’s scheduling snafu represents yet another example of this, for which the country as a whole is mainly responsible. Civilians use 12-hour clocks in this country, which means that telling someone to take a pill “at 9:00” may result in double dosages. The military, hospitals, air-traffic controllers, meteorologists, certainly astronomers — anyone who needs to know the time precisely — all use a 24-hour clock.

24-hour time eliminates the ambiguity of what exactly you mean by “9:00”. You also no longer have to wonder whether “12:00 PM” means noon or midnight. (Technically, since the Latin “post meridiem” means “AFTER midday”, “12:00 PM” could only be midnight, and noon would be “12:00 M” — midday exactly — but try to convince anyone of that.) It also eliminates the ambiguity about each day having 2 midnights: The one that starts the day is 0:00, while the one that ends the day is 24:00. Furthermore, it provides a convenient method for scheduling things that happen AFTER midnight, that you’re staying up late for: Just keep the clock running past 24. That way, Eastgate could have said the movie started at 0:01 on Saturday OR at 24:01 on Friday; either way, it would be clearer than what they were forced to do because of our stupid adherence to the outdated 12-hour clock.

Folks in charge of alternate-side parking, are you paying attention?


Post a Comment

<< Home