“Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.” — Scott Adams
It’s Saturday night and I’m playing Minecraft with my girlfriend. For some reason my mind goes to space. Apparently my brain thinks that now is a good time to solve the problem of time in space, so I ask her: “Is there a system for time in space? I mean, is there like a universal system for time and dates?”
We talk for a bit while she’s building a house, but the question hasn’t been answered. Google offers nothing much on the topic except how they use UTC/GMT (Coordinated Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time) on the ISS.
I get it. As long as we’re “Earthlings” it’s completely logical to use a “geocentric”, or “heliocentric”, view of time. That’s just practical.
But what about the future? What about when we start populating places beyond our solar system, or galaxy?
Let’s say that we somehow manage to figure out a way to bypass Einstein’s special relativity, and enable low latency communications despite being light-years apart.
So, just think about the hassle we’ve got with time zones here on Earth. It would be nothing compared to figuring out if it’s an appropriate time of day (or year?) to call mom on “Gliese 832 c”.
This doesn’t just require a standard for time, but also a GPS on a completely new level. The G in GPS needs to go from Global to Galactic, perhaps even to I for Intergalactic.
In light of this I turned to ask my question on Quora.com. I got 2 answers quite quickly, and thankfully they calmed me down. Other people are thinking about this but there doesn’t seem to be a standard devised just yet.
A local calendar on Mars would have 687 days and each day would be 24h 40 minutes long. That difference wouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
Somebody’s already got a website for it: http://jtauber.github.io/mars-clock/
For now, the “Intergalactic Positioning System” and “Intergalactic Mean Time” are so far off that we can get away with using the 24 hour clock and 12 month calendar.
But for how long?
That’s where my mind was at until I saw something that brought me to the here and now.
From time to time I get messages and mails from people reaching out, hoping for some little piece of advice they can use to turn their lives around.
I do my best to answer them as long as it doesn’t interfere with my other work. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to decline and send a pre-written reply.
But there are those messages where you drop everything and do your best to, if not help, at least let them know that you understand them.
The message was from a person contemplating suicide.
What the hell do you do with that?
She explained how her life had been a series of disappointments and failures. Great expectations had been put on her and she feels she’s disappointed everyone, including herself.
She thinks she should’ve accomplished something by now and feels that life might not be worth living if disappointment is all she has to look forward to.
Time will tell if she found anything I had to say useful. Hopefully she at least knows that somebody heard her.
The point is this: Everybody’s got something.
She has the opportunity to achieve great things in life but feels she’s squandering it.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually CREATE problems. So, if I can give someone else a helping hand, I do.
These are problems on a “higher level” than having water, food, and shelter. Basic needs that people struggle with every day.
It’s easy to feel shame when you compare failure and an ISO standard for time in space to other, more pressing, problems.
The thing is that they aren’t mutually exclusive.
They’re very real problems for you and me.
But when someone asks for our help, we should ask ourselves not only which issue to focus on, but also how we can help.
You see, we might not be able to help that person asking for our help. We might not have the tools for it.
I have no training in suicide prevention. I have no qualifications for that whatsoever.
But I am human. I can read, I can listen, I can advise as best I can. I can also write so that perhaps someone else might gain something from it.
That’s all I can do. Nothing more.
Everybody’s got something.
Maybe that’s enough for me? Maybe that’s enough for you?
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