I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.



WILL ROGERS (1879-1935)

Half our time is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.

An octodesexcentenary is 592 years long.

Decimal Time

During the French Revolution they tried out decimal time. The day was divided into 10 decimal hours consisting of 100 decimal minutes which each lasted 100 decimal seconds. Despite being the official time, nobody used it and so it was abandoned after 18 months (as measured in non-revolutionary Gregorian time).

Phantom Time Hypothesis

According to the Phantom Time Hypothesis theory, the period between 614 ad and 911 ad didn’t exist; the history normally attributed to that time is either a misinterpretation or a deliberate falsification of the evidence.  If this were true, Charlemagne (reigned 768-814) never existed and the year 2012 is actually 1715 ad.

The idea was created in 1990 by a man called Heribert Illig and has since been developed by other German historians as well as conspiracy theorists.

  • Arguments in favour of the theory are as follows: The apparent stagnation in the development of architecture, ceramics and thought as well as the lack of substantial documentary evidence – this is why the first part of this period is called the ‘Dark Ages’  - suggests this period simply didn’t exist.
  • There is very little archaeological evidence which can be reliably dated to this period; our account is based on a quite limited number of written sources (which could be faked or just wrong).
  • The Pope introduced the new Gregorian calendar in 1582 to replace the Julian one, when it was 10 days out of sync. If the error had been building up since the introduction of the Julian calendar in 45 ad, it ought to have been 13 days out – so the intervening period must have been overstated by 300 years. Mainstream historians have a simple explanation, though: the purpose of the change was to bring the calendar into line with the Council of Nicaea in 325 ad, not with 45 ad – which accounts for the discrepancy.
  • Architect, astronomer, educator, philo­logist, folklorist, lawmaker, statesman - the range of achievements credited to Charlemagne is so great that it implies he is a mythical figure.

If Phantom Time Hypothesis holds up, who created the fake, and why? Perhaps the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III wanted to be on the throne at the time of the Millennium, 1000 ad, so he got chroniclers across Europe to invent and document an extra 300 years.

Illig’s followers face many difficulties of course: the theory has yet to explain how it would fit into the history of the world outside Europe, or into astronomical records, or into the tree-ring data. More inter-disciplinary research needed, they say.

William Willett, inventor of Daylight Saving Time, is the great-great grandfather of Coldplay's Chris Martin.

Time and Tide

The word ‘time’ is the most commonly used noun in English. It is deceptively versatile.  It can be an abstract idea – the time that physicists talk about. But it can also be a discrete moment (‘I smile every time the cat dances’) or the exact hour of the day (‘what is the time?’).

Other languages use three words to describe these three senses. In French they correspond to tempsfois and heure. In German, they are zeitmal and Ur. Even in Old English, we used two different words: tid, meaning a chunk of time (like ‘eventide’) and tima, which was their equivalent of ‘hour’. Gradually these distinct senses have coalesced into one, multipurpose word.

Where did the word come from originally? The oldest root we have is  – a Proto-Indo European prefix meaning ‘to cut or divide.’ That makes sense – in all its various guises, time is a measure of the space between things. The Greeks went even further than we did in stretching this meaning. In Ancient Greek, dā mo became the distance between different types of people, as in demos or ‘ordinary citizens’ and even between the Gods and humans: dai-mon meant ‘divider’ and gave us our words daimon or demon.

Is there any other word small enough to describe something as mundane as a railway timetable and yet suggestive enough to encompass the deepest mysteries of the universe? Only time will tell . . .

The word ‘time’
is the most commonly used noun in English.

Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford has its services at ‘Cathedal Time’ - five minutes behind GMT.

Dinosaurs had to fit a full day’s work into just 23 hours. 
In 140 million years, a day on Earth is expected to last 25 hours.

Telling Time in the Ancient World

Ancient Greeks used a device called a clepsydra (water-thief) as a timer for places and times when sundials couldn’t be used. This also consisted of a jar with a hole in the bottom, but worked in the opposite way to the bowl timers. As long as the jar was kept topped up, the water flowed out the bottom at a steady rate and could be used to measure time. Clepsydrae were used in courts to define how long speeches could last.

JOHN FOWLES (1926-2005)

Time is not a road – it is a room.

Watch adverts nearly always show the time as 10:10. This is so that the hands of the watch neatly frame the brand name.


Leap Years

Because a year is about 365 and a quarter days long, Julius Caesar had the idea of adding an extra day - February 29th - once every 4 years to make a ‘leap year’. But because a year is actually a fraction less than 365 and a quarter days, Pope Gregory XIII changed it in 1582 so that centenary years are no longer leap years unless they’re divisible by 400. Therefore the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but the year 2000 was. This system is remarkably accurate, but still not quite perfect...

Modern standards of time are set by highly accurate atomic clocks rather than astronomical observations, and so leap seconds have to be added roughly once a year to keep international time standards synchronised with the rotation of the Earth, which varies randomly and is generally slowing down

DOUGLAS ADAMS (2952-2001)

This must be Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays. 

Ten Days We'll Never Get Back

By the time Pope Gregory XIII introduced his new calendar, the inaccuracies in Julius Caesar’s calendar had accumulated into a ten-day error over the 13 centuries since it had begun. In Roman Catholic countries, the last day of the old Julian calendar was October 4,1582. This was followed by the first day of the new Gregorian calendar, which was October 15, 1582.

This is supposed to have led some people to accuse the Church of stealing ten days of their lives; others were said to have complained that they were required to pay a full month's rent for the shortened month but that they had only been paid for the days they had actually worked. The extent of the disquiet, including the claim that it had caused riots, is probably a myth.
Russia did not accept the new calendar until 1918, with January 31 being followed by February 14. In consequence, the anniversary of the 'October Revolution' now falls in November.

One Small Step Backwards...

Sergei Vasilyevich Avdeyev holds the world record for time travel by a human being.

Throughout his 748-day mission aboard the Mir space station, he hurtled through space at 17,200 mph (27,700 km/h).

This prolonged high-speed journey made him about two tenths of a second younger than he would have been if he had spent his whole life on earth.


Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

Seven Day Week

Nobody knows why we have settled on a seven-day week, but it seems to date back to 2350 BC when Sargon I, King of Akkad, conquered Ur and other cities of Sumeria and instituted the 7-day cycle. The most favoured reason behind the number is that they coincided with the seven classical celestial bodies – the moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and the sun, which compare closely to the Latin days of the week: Lunae, Martis, Mercurii, Jovis, Veneris, Saturni and Solis.

Alternative Weeks

Between 1929 and 1931, the Soviet Union introduced a five-day week with every fifth day off. The working population was split into five different shifts so that on any day, only one in five of the workforce was having the day off.
The Ancient Etruscans had an eight-day week that was used to organise the dates for their markets. It briefly caught on in Rome before the seven-day week won out.
The Ancient Celts used an eight-day week which actually counted nine nights. Three weeks made up a month of 27 days, which fits roughly with a sidereal month - the time it takes the moon return in its orbit to the same point in the sky, which is every 27.321661 days.

The nine-day week also suited the 14th century Lithuanians and Latvians.

The Igbo, who live in South East Nigeria have a four-day week. A month consists of seven weeks, and there are 13 months in their year. In the last month of the year, an extra day is added. This calendar is still used in indigenous Igbo villages and towns to determine market days.
In Bali, the calendar is derived from the growing cycle of rice; its year is 210 days long and is further divided into ‘weeks’ of one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten days that all run at the same time. For instance, when the third day of
the three-day week system coincides with the fourth day of the five-day week system (that is, on the 9th day of the 210 day year), it is a day to beware of malevolent forces. The system is not for those who struggle with maths!

Time is Money

Why not have a banking system to borrow, lend and store time? In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, there is a specific method for redistributing time to where more is needed.
This is carried out by the History Monks, who pull
time from places where it's not needed, like in a classroom of bored pupils, and put it into places where it is needed, like a busy factory.

An English law of 1256 states that if you are born on February 29th, your official birthday when it’s not a leap year is February 28th.

If you dial the Speaking Clock at midnight on a day when a Leap Second is added, the clock says: ‘At the fourth stroke ...’

Julius Caesar came up with the idea of switching from a lunar to a solar calendar at a party thrown by Cleopatra.


Oh, are there two nine o'clocks in the day? 

'Day dapple', is an old Irish term for the time of day when a person could no longer be distinguished from a bush.

Most casinos have no windows and no clocks in order that their patrons will lose their sense of time.

The Incas based their measurement of time on how long it took to boil a potato.

Officially the South Pole uses Greenwich Mean Time.