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.)

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.)

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:


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.)