Trope-a-Day: Year Outside, Hour Inside

Year Outside, Hour Inside: Thanks to relativity, truth in television for lighthugger crews, who slowly build up a hefty time differential (and cultural delta) with the parts of the universe operating on the empire-time frame.

(Hint: if there’s a family member or social grouping you just can’t live without, make sure you all sign up together.

…also, give up on playing MMOs or multiplayer games with anyone off the ship, no matter how much tangle you brought. Timeslip is much worse than netlag.)

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: Two Of Your Earth Minutes

Two Of Your Earth Minutes: Mostly averted, between the Translator Microbes and that most people using measurements internationally (or between species where that amounts to the same thing) are using either Accord System measurements or Imperial Standard, which just happen, since the latter uses a sensible Planck base and the Empire is a heavyweight on the Presidium of the Conclave, to share their base units and most of their derived ones.  So it’s usually not much of an issue.

As Requested

“…and asked them their wish. So the lovers told the Unwise GenAI that they needed neither goods nor gift, and that all they wanted was to live happily ever after and love always. And the Unwise GenAI said, ‘By your command,’ and bade his servants seize the lovers and place them in a capsule, and fired that capsule into close orbit around a black hole, deep down by the event horizon where no moments pass, frozen in between seconds, ever-living, ever-loving, until time itself dies…”

– from “Terrifying Tales for Despicable Descendants”,
Bad Stuff Press

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.

Fic-a-Day: Mutual Ambush

(To illustrate some of the issues.)

As the classic example of the effects of physics upon interstellar relations, consider the short and inconclusive conflict known as the Odeln Extrality Incident (from the Imperial perspective), or the First Border War (from the Republican perspective). It is generally agreed that the cause and first engagement of the conflict was the mutual destruction, a short distance outside the Odeln system volume, of the Imperial destroyer CS Joyful Dirge, and the Voniensan battlecruiser VNS Deliberative.

The causes of the incident remain obscure, beyond the rising post-contact tensions in the Seam, and even the details of it are disputed. Many of the ensuing skirmishes and inconclusive negotiations can be attributed to the relativistic nature of the engagement; the consensus of the Imperial observers, computed according to the empire time reference frame, was universally that Deliberative fired first upon Joyful Dirge, while the consensus of Voniensan observers in-system, operating in reference frames tied to Republic Universal, was that Joyful Dirge fired first upon Deliberative. It is the unfortunate nature of relativistic space-time that all of these observations can be simultaneously truthful and true.

Such are the difficulties of the strategos, the diplomat, and the historian in a non-Callaneth-compliant universe.

– Larjyn Calcelios-ith-Calithos, Perspectives on the Early Interstellar Era


Today’s cross-infection between professions: since I’m mucking about with date/time libraries in .NET as the moment in my day job, wondering what a relatively (heh) simple type like, say, System.DateTime would look like in the Eldraeverse, where convenient assumptions like sharing the same concept of “now”, rate of passage of time, and event ordering with the other systems on the network are trivially false.

(For everyone, not just people coding for NASA or GPS systems.)