Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year Numerology

I never could get the point of celebrating New Year, and this year is no different.

Apart from the fact that the household was disturbed by fireworks as late as 02:30 and that the phone rang a couple of times, we woke this morning to find the drains blocked by some kind and generous neighbour pouring liquid fat down their sink.  (You guessed it - it didn't remain liquid for long!)

The New Year seems to be no better than the old.

However, why does nobody ever notice that the timing of New Year is only the result of something akin to numerology?  Someone, sometime, decided that the clocks should say the time that they do.  The whole system is based on the happenstance that the zero meridian passes through the royal Greenwich Observatory at Greenwich.  Had the Rose Line in Paris been successfully deployed instead, the moment of celebration would be a few minutes earlier, (or indeed nearly an hour later due to the artificial and ridiculous one hour time difference between Paris and London).  If we chose the meridian on the basis of the 'centre of mass' of the world's population then it would sure be somewhere else.

Why not choose the meridian that passes through Mecca?  Many Muslims claim that it has a special place on the surface of the earth, involving the golden ratio in the distance from Mecca to the north and south poles and some other numerologocial nonsense.  (Their claims relating to longitude are not on such firm footing but hey - why not choose to use someone else's numerology when it turns out to suit your argument!  See the note at the end of this post for a link.)

As good skeptics, I feel that it is our duty to question the arbitrary choice of time and to celebrate whenever it suits us, instead of following the herd and doing what everyone else does.

After all, it was only from 1753 that New Year was deemed to take place on 1st January.  For centuries before that, in England at least, New Year was 'celebrated' on 'Lady Day', 25th March.

Let's just say that I understand the need for an excuse to have a party sometimes, and at least the fuss that surrounds New Year is little less annoying than the fuss surrounding the choice of 25th December as the birthday for the mythical baby Jesus.

I'm just glad that all the fuss is over for another year.  I only have to tolerate a few days of being greeted with a cheery 'Happy New Year' and then we can go back to celebrating a happy New Day every morning in the normal way.

++ If you want a good chuckle about numerology, follow this perfectly serious link to a Youtube video about the Golden Ratio and the place of Mecca.  The surprising thing is that the claims about the latitude of Mecca are quite (but not exactly) accurate. 

Small note: This is published deliberately at a moment that is not dead on New Year.  It might have been, if another arbitrary time system had been chosen.  Happy Alternative New Year!


Dobbin said...

Oops...next year I'll remember not to wish you a Happy New Year then PE ;-)

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