Time and Time Again, We Get The Wrong Time
By MUNGAI KIHANYA
The Sunday Nation
Nairobi,
24 July 2005
In this day and age, some
things should never be disputed…like some one’s age. But ask a
teenager how old he is and chances are, depending on the circumstances,
he will either add or subtract one year to his true age.
Some one born in, say, January 1989, may insist that
he is 17 years old because he has passed his 16th birthday. But the
truth is that we are in 2005 and 2005 minus1989 is 16. Thus the boy
is only 16 years and some months old!
However, some situations can be confusing. For
example, how come we say that we are in the 21st century, yet all the
years begin with the number 20? When you think about it, all the years
of the first century, AD, may be numbered 0001, 0002, 0003, …0098, 0099,
0100. Notice that they all start with the digits “00”.
Years of the second century can also be numbered
thus: 0101, 0102, …0200. Again we notice that years of the SECOND
century begin with the number ONE. Therefore it is clear why years of
the 21st century begin with the number 20. As the mathematicians (and
I’m not one of them!) would put it; all the years of the Xth century
(except the last one), begin with the number X – 1.
Date and time can have other
complications. For example, if some one told you to meet him at midnight
on the on 25 July 2005, would you go to the rendezvous tonight or
tomorrow night? You see, 25 July 2005 has two midnights  one at the
beginning and another at the end of the day. The question then arises,
what date is midnight?
Now we begin to understand why “midnight” flights,
for example, are always scheduled to take off a few minutes after
midnight, say 00:05Hr…and you car insurance commences at 00:01Hr on a
given date.
Another confusing situation is when some one tells
you something like “come back in three days from today”. Today being
Sunday, when would you return? On Tuesday or Wednesday? Let us try to
figure it out…
If he had said come back in one day, you would return
on Monday. And if he says two days, he means Tuesday. Therefore, come
back in three days must mean Wednesday. However, if the statement was,
“come back on the third day”, you may be excused if you returned
on Tuesday.
All said and done, the big question that still
remains is what is time? When we say that three hours have passed, what
do we mean? Three hours of what? One argument says that time is the
duration between two events. This implies that time is a measure of
change. Thus, if everything stopped changing, then time would also stop.
Perhaps this is why some scientists insist
that it is illogical to ask what there before the beginning of the
universe. There was nothing, therefore there was no change. No change
means no time. And no time means that there was no “before
the beginning”.
