# Time Is On My Side

If you do much data analysis it won’t be long before you work with data measured over a range of times. When you do see time-series data, you’ll find that time scales and time units have some very quirky properties. Time after Time You might think that time is measured on a ratio scale given its ever finer divisions (i.e., hours, minutes, seconds). Yet it doesn’t make sense to refer to a ratio of two times any more than the ratio of two location coordinates. The starting point is also arbitrary. So time clearly isn’t measured on a ratio scale but it can be measured on interval or ordinal scales. Time units are also used for durations; however durations can be measured on a ratio scale. Durations can be used in ratios and they have a starting point of zero. Time measurements can be linear or cyclic. Year is linear, and can be measured on either an interval scale or an ordinal scale. For example, the year 1953 can be expressed as an integer (ordinal scale) or a decimal (interval scale). Furthermore, all values of linear time are unique. The year 1953 happened once and will never recur. Linear time is like a river. You start at some point and go with the flow. You can’t get back to your starting point, but it still exists somewhere in time. Some time scales repeat. If day one is a Monday, then so is day eight. Likewise, month one is the same as month thirteen. So time can also be treated as being measured on a repeating ordinal scale. Durations don’t repeat; one day isn’t the same as eight days. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Most measurement scales are based on factors of ten. With time, though, there are 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, and 24 hours per day. Blame the Babylonians for starting this craziness and every civilization for the next 4,000 years for being content with the status quo. In contrast, calendars have evolved from the Hellenic calendar (~850 BC), the Roman calendar (~750 BC), the Julian calendar (46 BC), to the Gregorian calendar (1582). Everybody knows about seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and even decades, centuries, and millennia, but there are many other units used for time. A jiffy is either one tick of a computer’s system clock (about 0.01 second) or the time required for light to travel one centimeter (about 33.3564 picoseconds). A New York second is the time between when a traffic signal turns from red to green and when the driver behind you honks his horn, about a second and a half. An inna minute is the time between when you ask a teenager to do something and the time he or she complies, usually about ten to thirty minutes. A warhol is being famous for fifteen minutes; a kilowarhol is being famous for approximately ten days. A moment is a medieval unit of time equal to about a minute and a half. A fortnight is two weeks. A platonic year is an astronomical unit measuring the time required for planets to align (about 26,000 calendar years). There have been several systems in which time units were based on factors of ten, most notably by the Chinese (before the 17th century) and in France (during the 18th century). Decimal time
Katmandu, I’ll soon be seeing you and your strange bewildering time will keep me home. Cat Stevens