Doomsday Rule

The Doomsday rule or Doomsday algorithm is a way of calculating the day of the week of a given date. It provides a perpetual calendar since the Gregorian calendar moves in cycles of 400 years.

This algorithm for mental calculation was devised by John Conway after drawing inspiration from Lewis Carroll's work on a perpetual calendar algorithm. It takes advantage of the fact that each year has a certain day of the week (the doomsday) upon which certain easy-to-remember dates fall; for example, 4/4, 6/6, 8/8, 10/10, 12/12, and the last day of February all occur on the same day of the week in any given year. Applying the Doomsday algorithm involves three steps:

  1. Determine the "anchor day" for the century.
  2. Use the anchor day for the century to calculate the doomsday for the year.
  3. Choose the closest date out of the ones that always fall on the doomsday (e.g. 4/4, 6/6, 8/8), and count the number of days (modulo 7) between that date and the date in question to arrive at the day of the week.

This technique applies to both the Gregorian calendar A.D. and the Julian calendar, although their doomsdays will usually be different days of the week.

Since this algorithm involves treating days of the week like numbers modulo 7, John Conway suggests thinking of the days of the week as Noneday, Oneday, Twosday, Treblesday, Foursday, Fiveday, and Six-a-day.

The algorithm is simple enough for anyone with basic arithmetic ability to do the calculations mentally. Conway can usually give the correct answer in under two seconds. To improve his speed, he practices his calendrical calculations on his computer, which is programmed to quiz him with random dates every time he logs on.

Read more about Doomsday Rule:  Doomsdays For Some Contemporary Years, Memorable Dates That Always Land On Doomsday, Finding A Year's Doomsday, Finding A Century's Anchor Day, Overview of All Doomsdays, Computer Formula For The Doomsday of A Year, 400-year Cycle of Doomsdays, Correspondence With Dominical Letter

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