What is a week?

Today morning I had a brief conversation with a coworker. As many office works do on Wednesday, and not only on Wednesday, we were dreaming of the upcoming weekend. Partially, as a joke, we said that it would be nice to have an extra day in a week that nobody else would know about. We could then rest and relax in the middle of the week without anyone noticing our absence.

That reminded me of the system that I’ve built a few years ago. It had to do with schedule generation for a bunch of people who were working shifts. The rules of who can take which shifts were constantly changing. And so, in order to build the most flexible system that I could think of, I implemented one which had a variable number of days per week. You could easily build a week of just three days or eight or ten. On top of that, days could be easily rearranged in order. That was a fun setup, but eventually it proved very useful. I left the company many years ago, but I hear they still use the system with just a few extra tweaks.

Once I remembered that system, it got me thinking more about the definition of the week. Which brought me to the history of how did we come to have a 7 day week. The best resource for things like that is, of course, Wikipedia. Surprisingly, the page is not very long. But even as it is, it still mentions weeks used in different societies at different times. Have a look at it to learn about 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 8-, 9-, and even 10-day weeks. It’s quite fun.

Given that time is very abstract, I find it interesting how tightly we hold on to a 7-day week standard.

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