WASHINGTON - Call it a coincidental sign of our digital times or a reason to stay up late and stare at the clock. Either way, early Wednesday morning the time and date will be 01-02-03-04-05-06.
At 1:02 a.m. and three seconds on Wednesday, April 5, 2006, it will be the first hour of the day, the second minute of the hour, the third second of that precious minute in the fourth month and the fifth day of ... uh oh. It's not really the sixth year.
It's actually 2006 — only in our shorthand is it '06.
"It just happens to be a chronological oddity," said Geoff Chester, spokesman for the U.S. Naval Observatory, an official world atomic clock timekeeper. "If you were to use the full year, that would screw things up completely. You do have to bend it a little if you want to make it work. That's what you call 'Finagle's Law of Best Fit'."
Even numerologists, such as Rob Ragozzine, who runs the SimplyNumbers.com web site, dismiss the 1-2-3-4-5-6 moment as merely "a neat coincidence" because of that pesky 2006 thing.
"People are interested in numbers," said Jack Horkheimer, 67-year-old host of the Star Gazer public television show and executive director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium. "Would I stay up all night waiting for it? Ten years ago, I would have had a party. Now, I will probably be deep in the arms of sleep."
There are less bleary-eyed alternatives. There's 1:02 p.m., but Horkheimer said that's really 13:02 p.m. and doesn't really count.
Chester recommends celebrating universal time, the standard scientific time, which is four hours ahead of eastern daylight time. So 01-02-03-04-05-06 can be celebrated at 9:02 p.m. EDT by calling up the U.S. Naval Observatory's "master clock" then and waiting for the universal time pronouncement, he said. That number is 202-762-1401.
The clock is also on the web at: http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/what1.html
For much of the world, especially Europe, this odd line-up of numbers doesn't really happen until next month. That's because many countries put the number of the day first, then the number of the month. So for many places, 01-02-03-04-05-06 happens at 1:02 a.m. May 4.