Trope-a-Day: Universal Universe Time

Universal Universe Time: Subverted.  On the one hand, it’s played straight; just about all of the Associated Worlds sync to empire time/weavetime, the consensus establishing-a-common-relativistic-reference-frame timebase agreed to and broadcast by all the stargates – see Microts for more details – so that there’s some agreement with everyone else as to what the time is.

(The Voniensans, perverse as ever, don’t – so life along that border can get confusing.)

But weavetime is mostly of use for scientific purposes and for synchronization.  In the Empire, to provide more practical units for daily use, there’s Imperial Standard Time, which is the weavetime-synchronized version of the Eldrae homeworld’s cycles, and so is used there and everywhere else where the local planetary or habitat cycles aren’t convenient, and as the standard commercial calendar; meanwhile, many planets, moons, and habs, on the other hand, have a local calendar based on their own cycles which they use for local purposes.  (Or sometimes two, if orbits and seasons are out of sync with each other.)  And lighthuggers, of course, have their own version of IST which also include the relevant frame corrections.  Not that the other local times don’t include many and various frame corrections, but lighthuggers are where they become really obvious.

Other polities, as expected, do much the same thing internally, establishing their own interplanetary and planetary calendars, synchronized to the weavetime timebase – so even though one does still have to ask what time it is, at least understanding the answer is usually a simple matter of unit conversions.

(Datetimes from anywhere that doesn’t have a local stargate/timebase beacon operational invariably include a +/- estimated-drift figure.)

Trope-a-Day: Microts

Microts: Ah, the wonders of time measurement.

The Eldrae have a number of time measurement systems (well, when you’re an interstellar polity, you more or less have to, since local days and years vary all over the place and it’s handy if your time units bear some resemblance to what nature is doing). But there are two systems that are used more or less everywhere, so I’ll talk about those a little.

The first, “weavetime”, is the one that technical systems use internally, and as the basis for all the other systems, because it defines the base unit, the “pulse”. (It’s not actually the fundamental unit, I suppose, because it’s not the Planck time, nor is it a nice clean number in terms of things atomic clocks, etc., actually measure, but it’s the traditional “second”, if you will. It’s actually based on the length of a nominal resting heartbeat as a multiple of the Planck time – roughly 3/4 of an Earth second, in their terms.) And for scientific and technical purposes, weavetime just agglomerates pulses together, producing kilopulses (about a third of a local hour; 21.6 minutes), megapulses (24 local days; 26 of ours), gigapulses (124 of their years, 122.5 of ours), etc.

Weavetime is defined by consensus agreement of baseline clocks located aboard each and every stargate in the plexus, which together produces the “empire time reference frame”, a nice preferred standard by which everyone can agree what the time is despite all the wormhole FTLing. It also includes the standards for the frame-correction algorithms used to synchronize lighthugger starships and other objects moving at inconveniently relativity-invoking speeds up by defining the difference between the absolute pulse (“empire time”) and the local pulse (“wall-clock time”).

Said lighthugger starships, incidentally, generally make their own lives simpler by using “mission elapsed time” internally, thus avoiding having to use a pulse too different in length from everyone else’s, and go back on the local timebase when they arrive.

But weavetime is kind of inconvenient for day to day use – the nearest “day-length” unit, quite apart from not matching any planet anywhere, is the 144-kilopulse unit at 52 Earth hours, which is not that useful.

So for regular living, people use Imperial Standard Time, which in the finest traditions of hegemonists everywhere is essentially the same as planetary time for the eldrae homeworld, only using the precisely calculated weavetime pulse. It’s local time for there, and for everywhere whose day length is too short (e.g., space stations, where the local day can be around an hour), or too long (tide-locked worlds, where the local day can be around a year), or too weird (e.g., moons of gas giants, where argh conventional calendar does not work), to have a practical local calendar; it’s also used universally as the commercial calendar to work out public holidays, the financial year, etc., etc.

IST uses a local day that’s approximately 26 Earth hours long; that time unit is referred to as one “cycle”. It divides it in half precisely into day and night – which works well for their world, which lacks any axial-tilt-equivalent due to not being a conventional planet and so has no day-length variation – and then divides the day into twelve “hours” (~ 65 Earth minutes) and the night into six “watches”; each of these are individually named, although in writing them briefly it’s acceptable to number them instead.

The name actually doesn’t refer to the whole period, but rather to the moment the period centers around, so while an hour is divided into 72 minutes (each ~ 54 seconds), these are counted as 36 “rising” minutes before the named moment, and 36 “falling” minutes after it. Watches are, obviously, divided into 144 minutes, 72 before and 72 afterward.  And each minute contains 72 pulses.

The calendar divides the homeworld’s year (333.3 local cycles in length), into 333 cycles with an additional intercalary cycle (“Calibration”) added every third year (and omitted every thirtieth) to fix the lag, in turn divided into 37 weeks of nine cycles each, which pleasingly allows the weeks to fit evenly into the year and make each calendar date the same day of the week. It’s also divided into months (whose length is taken from the period of the more prominent of the planet’s moons, but which no longer follow its phases, since they’re now synchronized with the years) each 27 days long. This, obviously, doesn’t exactly fit into the length of the year, so there are nine intercalary cycles added at various points to make up the slack.

On Time

For those who found the time system in “Watchers” on the confusing side, well, that’s pretty fair, really. 🙂

What you’re looking at is the Imperial Standard Time system, which is the traditional one – used on Eliéra, and elsewhere as the standard/commercial calendar. (The other commonly used systems are ‘weavetime’, which is used for scientific purposes – counting in the base-12 SI equivalent multiples of the second-equivalent ‘pulse’ – and as a base to compute the other systems from, being good at handling interstellar empire-time issues and relativistic frame corrections.)

Being an old and traditional system, IST is delightfully irregular. There are 24 hours – not the same length as T-hours – in a day, with 72 minutes per hour and 72 pulses per minute. But unlike our system, the whole day-night cycle is divided separately into the 12 hours of the day, and the 6 watches of the night, 72 and 144 minutes long respectively, with the changeover at dawn/dusk.

(Given the peculiarities of Eliéra’s orbital mechanics, these don’t vary like they do on most planets; the day and night are always the same length.)

Also, rather than being a simple count of minutes, the hours/watches are considered points in time; the minutes are counted as 36 “rising” minutes towards the hour (or 72 towards the watch), and 36 “falling” minutes away from it. (On a clock, respectively, as the minute hand ascends the left side of the dial and then descends the right.) The hours and watches are each named. In the traditional, long name format, for example, the first time mentioned in “Watchers” would be:

Wineful rising 48

In the shorter numerical format, adding the watches to the hours directly, and in which rising and falling minutes are delimited by +/-, that becomes the:

14+48:00

we see there. Also, this being the second watch of the night at approximately its midpoint, we can deduce that – differing day-lengths aside – this incident took place around the equivalent of our 9 pm.

(As another time-related note, if you’re pedantic enough to want to check my figures in “Linelayer”, don’t forget to allow for the different year-length… and so also the different light-year length.)

Leap Day

In honor of (I can honor the weirdest things) it being February 29, our calendar’s leap day, a half-dozen facts about the leap day for those using Imperial Standard Time:

  1. First, it does have one, as IST is based on the rotation and orbital periods of Eliera, the eldrae homeworld.  The year is a little longer than hours, because while it’s only 333.3 local days long, the local day itself is roughly 26 of our hours long.  Given these periods, the leap day is added every third year and omitted every thirtieth, to suit.
  2. It’s named “Calibration Day”, because that’s what it does to the calendar.
  3. It’s added to the calendar at the summer solstice, immediately after the intercalary day set aside for that every year.
  4. As it’s an anomaly in the smooth progression of days, nights, cycles and years anyway, it’s also the traditional day that leap seconds and other minor adjustments are added on to.
  5. It’s not officially a holiday, but since everyone’s still recovering from the Midyear’s Day festival, it’s not like much work gets done on it.
  6. Many Imperials really hate the thought of having to eventually split Elieran planetary time and IST up as the planet slows in deep time, even if that is what every other planet has to do routinely. Plans for giant planet-girdling superconducting rings to electromagnetically spin the planetary rotation back up are already being tossed around by the Excruciatingly Long-Range Planning chaps.  At least it keeps them busy.