Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The One Thing Humans Can Agree On

New Year's Eve (and Day, I suppose) is my favorite holiday of the year for the reason that it is an entirely human celebration ... there is no "giving thanks" or implicity-but-now-commercialized worship to some deity that most people don't believe in anyhow. It's quite simply a celebration of saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new, an arbitrary reason to try to "start over." But moreso than that, I like New Year's because the time and date is the one thing that we as the human race can actually agree upon. No one right now is actually saying, "no, no, it's really February 17, 2086."

I'd say more, but in five minutes it's going to be 2008 here and then I can go to sleep, so I'll end with the lame question of: can you come up with anything else that everyone agrees upon?

7 comments:

Ed Davies said...

Well, Saudi Arabia seems to still use the Islamic lunar calendar for official purposes.

John said...

And Thailand thinks it's January 1, 2551. But they do celebrate the western New Year's.

mollishka said...

Yeah, I should have seen this coming, but it seems I was a little too tired last night to remember to state: I meant "Common Era"/"CE". Sure people may have their own special calendar they use for other things, but the agreement is that today is January 1, 2008 CE, even if it is also ROC.97-01-01.

John said...

Yeah, to be fair, it does amaze me that pretty much the entire world recognizes CE.

On the other hand, I think that's made up for by letting every single country make up its own rules about how its time zones are going to work, and then change them whenever they feel like it.

BJ said...

Everybody agrees on the value of 'Pi'

Haapy New Year!

mollishka said...

Math (and, to an extent, science [though science is often political and people seem to deny its truth more readily]) doesn't really seem to be in the same category: it's not arbitrary, it just is... and many many many many more people simply don't know what, for example, the definition of π is, let alone what its numerical value is.

Aaron said...

"Math [...] doesn't really seem to be in the same category: it's not arbitrary, it just is."

But is it? From a purely formalist perspective, math is entirely arbitrary, but I think there's evidence that human mathematicians aren't pure formalists. Concepts like counting are so deeply ingrained into many cultures that they're practically congenital, and I wouldn't be surprised if some ideas in geometry, such as the recognition of right angles, were actually hardwired into our brains. Is this evidence that some parts of mathematics exist outside our heads? What would it even mean for mathematics to exist outside our heads?

Happy new year!