Why We Have Leap Year

I’m kinda busy and also a little burned out on politics, so blogging has been light this week, barring someone doing something incredibly stupid that just gets my goat. But I did find this cool explanation of why we have a leap year.

What amazes me about this is not that mathematicians figured out precisely what we need to do to prevent us from celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer — hey, count me among those who think mathematicians and scientists rawk — but that the whole world is on the same page. I mean, we’re all on the same calendar, right? Even those countries which use something like the Islamic calendar use the Julian/Gregorian Calendar for purposes of international commerce and whatnot; if you travel to Riyadh on March 1 the date is the same, right? How did we get everyone to agree on this?

In a different time I might not have asked that question but with America’s idiocracy going full oooga-booga over the U.S. census, climate change, birth control and other expressions of reason and logic, I can totally see our Teanuts claim leap year to be some tyrannical United Nations conspiracy to make us all French.

Without further ado:

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5 Comments

Filed under Miscellany, weird stuff

5 responses to “Why We Have Leap Year

  1. Joe

    That was wonderful (and it reminded me again about how the year 2000 was different). What’s remarkable is that this was figured out in relatively ancient times (the Julian calendar was adopted in 45 BCE) where astronomy was still fairly rudimentary. Even the adjustment in the Gregorian calendar didn’t come until after Copernicus, but during Galileo’s lifetime. At that, many countries didn’t adopt it until the 18th century (hence why George Washington’s birthday moved in his lifetime). What a fun video.

  2. Of course those sticklers, the Brits, want the calendar to be as exactly perfect as humanly possible and insist on adding a few seconds to the year every now and again. As your video pointed out, the Earth day is getting longer. The U.S. tried in vain to avoid the latest correction citing the incredibly bothersome task of resetting computer clocks around the globe. The Brits won out again. Greenwich mean time must be the best that we can offer.

    On a related topic, if not for the crude understanding of time that was illuminated or at least stimulated by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, no global positioning system would be possible. I’m not really on top of exactly why, but it would be a fun topic for research.

  3. ThresherK

    If you’re thinking “nobody worries about that one second except real high-achieving scientist sorts”: When I was a kid we had to tune in to WWV to find out the real time. Uphill, in the snow, both ways.

    As a radio geek I trusted that much more than the ancient technology available to us in the days before Casio made watches.

  4. John Weiss

    Wonderful explanation. I’ll bet that there’s a geek out there who has written a program to keep track of all of this calendar doohicky stuff. No? Then it’s my turn!

  5. “I’m kinda busy and also a little burned out on politics, so blogging has been light this week, barring someone doing something incredibly stupid that just gets my goat.”

    Would Mittunswillard’s leghumping Kid Rock to get him to come sing at Romney’s Detroit campaign appearance count?