I’m going to be a complete geek and admit that this conversation I had with a friend and this resultant post came from discussing π (Pi) day. It started off with the posting of a comic strip discussing π day and that on March 14th at 1:59 am you have the first six digits of the mathematical constant π (3.14159). I also made a comment that I was rather worryingly the only person in my maths group that understood why it was π day. Goes to show that too many people rely on calculators and can’t remember the first few digits of the constant. Copy pasted below is the resulting conversation, what my friends have said is in bold, my replies in italics. Names are omitted to keep their anonymity.

Friend One: There is no fourteenth month, thus it is not pi day. We could have a day like 31/4 but 30 days hath november april june and september

Actually it’s the UK that has it wrong, a date and time should be written YYYY/MM/DD/hh/mm/ss/ that’s the standard notation for date and time, especially where navigation is concerned.

Friend 1: At least it’s in the right order- the US just jumps about instead of going large-small or vice versa


Friend 2: Do you have a citation to where it shows that time should be written from Large to Small?
I thought it would have been the other way round from an efficiency point of view.

My celestial navigation books.

Friend 2: So that’s from a navigation point of view, not from a time keeping point of view.

Exact time differences are calculated that way too, I’m guessing it’s more a general mathematical point of view than just navigation though. You use the same format in count downs as well like that Olympics waste of space in Trafalgar Square, you see that format on game release date count downs in Game stores.

Friend 2: But marking time as it moves forwards, you count forwards from the smallest to the largest, from 1 March 2012, 2 March 2012 and so on…

That appears to be specific to time moving forward though, look at currency and other numbers, the largest unit is recorded first, pounds, then pence, dollars then cents, large numbers say 1,000,000 are recorded millions first, hundred thousands second, tens of thousands, thousands, hundreds, tens then “units”, if there were a decimal after that you would gradually get smaller take the meter, you go meter, decimeter, centimeter, millimeter, micrometer, nanometer, gradually getting smaller.

Friend 2: You are talking about numerical values rather than the transition of time though.
With regards to the transition of time you have to count upwards, without a second you can’t have a minute, without a minute you can’t have an hour etc…
So under that rationale dates measuring time are measured in days, months and years.

Minutes and seconds are also measures of distance across the globe, degrees, minutes, seconds but that’s neither here nor there. What are years, days, hours, minuets and seconds if it is not a numerical value given to denote how much time has passed? Instead we could be using Radians to measure how far through one rotation of the earth we have traveled through, with one complete rotation being 2π radians. Without the time that has gone before how can you measure what time is passing. With time you also count backwards, at least where timezones are concerned.

Friend 2:The recording of time existed long before the notation was used to navigate.I’m talking about the measurements of time with which you measure what day it is i.e. Third of March, you comparison of the measurements of distance, even though it uses similar notation, is irrelevant.If I asked you what the date was, you wouldn’t say ‘it’s 120 miles since the 1st of the month’. Much like the answers to ‘How far have you traveled to get here’ wouldn’t be ‘6 hours’. :-/

Very true, though it makes for interesting pondering.

So after all that what is in a number? A single digit can represent so many differing things and yet the same thing. Don’t even get me started on negative and imaginary numbers, that’s most certainly the realms of pure mathematics.