Does anyone really know what time it is? Does anyone really care?

Pardon us for being sticklers. Occupational hazard.

The lede on a story in today’s newspaper set us off in search of nits to pick:

Several laws adopted by the Nevada Legislature in 2017 sprang into effect just after midnight Sunday as fireworks exploded over the Strip, marking the start of the new year.

Technically, the fireworks started at midnight, which is between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but exploded over the Strip on Monday the 1st. But according to the AP Stylebook, or at least the 2011 version I have lying about, midnight “is part of the day that is ending, not the one that is beginning.” So, the laws went into effect after midnight Sunday, but on Monday.

Now as far as the AP Stylebook, the designation of midnight as being a part of the day that is ending instead of the day that is beginning is, shall we say, arbitrary and capricious. If 11.59:59 p.m. is Sunday and 12:00:01 a.m. is Monday, why isn’t 12:00:00 the beginning of Monday and earn the tag of a.m.?

Strictly speaking, midnight ought not be construed as either, but rather is that infinitesimal point in between.

As the  National Institute of Standards and Technology, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, points out:

Are noon and midnight referred to as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?

This is a tricky question because 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. are ambiguous and should not be used.

To illustrate this, consider that “a.m.” and “p.m.” are abbreviations for “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem,” which mean “before noon” and “after noon,” respectively. Since noon is neither before noon nor after noon, a designation of either a.m. or p.m. is incorrect. Also, midnight is both twelve hours before noon and twelve hours after noon.

Got it?

As the NIST notes, it is generally clear what one is talking about when referring to “midnight tonight” or “midnight last night,” but what is meant by “midnight on Friday, October 20th?” Does that mean the beginning of the day or the end of day?

Just to be clear the cutline on the morning paper’s online pix says the fireworks on the Strip went off on Monday, Jan. 1.

Glad to clear that up for you.

Las Vegas Strip fireworks (R-J pix)

5 comments on “Does anyone really know what time it is? Does anyone really care?

  1. ronknecht says:

    We (former) mathematicians enjoyed this note and agree with you. Per Einstein: It’s all relative. Happy 2018!


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Athos says:

    I enjoyed the early songs from Chicago. (Before Terry Kath died)

  3. Bill says:

    Go over to the 24 hour clock as used in military time and eliminate the necessity of A.M. and P.M..

    2400 is the end of the old day and 0001 is the beginning of the new day.

    Hope 2018 you all have a great New Year and that 2018 is even better than 2017.

  4. Steve says:

    Bill, 23:59:59 is the end of the 24hr period with 00:00:00 picking up just after.

    Fixing the AM/PM paradigm is as easy as changing 12:00PM to 00:00:00AM but this would totally freak out the whole USA while making the rest of the world laugh at us, so…..never gonna happen.

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