Mathematics

When did the Millennium Begin



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On New Year's Eve, December 1999, many persons were on the countdown to the new millennium. Others contended that the new millennium would not begin until January 1 2001. To this day, there are many who do not know the truth and facts about this issue. The real answer is that the new millennium began at 00:00:01 on January 1 2001.

Some folks have trouble accepting that fact because it does not seem logical. Indeed, unless you use the right premise, it seems illogical that the new millennium began on January 1 2001 instead of the corresponding day in the year 2000. The key to the issue lies in an historical fact and the classification of number, i.e. cardinal versus ordinal numbers.

The historical fact is that the calendar began with the year 1 A.D. This fact alone is instructive, since we can normally start counting positive numbers from zero. The calendar year is not represented in the form intended. For example, 2000 is really the 2000th Year of Our Lord. This suggests that the year is really an ordinal number (2000th, 2001st), even though we represent it as a cardinal number (2000, 2001).

The difference between ordinal and cardinal numbers is the basis for the new millennium beginning at the start of 2001. If the years were cardinal (representing quantity as opposed to sequence or position), then January 1 2000 would have been the start of the new millennium. However, the years represent a sequence in a set. Therefore, when the calendar year changed to 2000, it did not mean that 2000 years were completed since the birth of Jesus. It means that the world is in its 2000th year—not having completed 2000 years.

However, it was still hard to avoid the hype of the year 2000. Even if you knew the reality, there was something special about making the change in all the figures. After all, instead of the first number being 1, it became 2—a noteworthy occurrence. Therefore, the celebrations were on and folks were welcoming in the New Year and new millennium on January 1 2000. Even at the end of 2009, many were looking back at the last decade, even though it was not the turn of the decade.

Some persons remain unaware of the historical fact and the pertinence of ordinal and cardinal numbers to this issue. Others seem to enjoy the change of the numbers. Perhaps we cannot fault them for that.

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