Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

Well, today is that one day that occurs only once every four years. The day that always seems to bring up office rumors, little giggles here and there, questions about why the boss is only 7 years old.......leap day. Why is there a leap day? It's kind of a long story but I'll try to sum it up for you.

Before Ancient Asians realized the earth revolved around the sun they thought the year was 340 days long. They based this year on the passage of seasons and based the month on how long it took for the moon to go from full back to full. This was about 28 days and they counted 12 months a year, just like we do today. The Babylonians figured a year was 360 days which they divided into 10 months, 36 days each. Closer, but still not quite right.

By the time Julius Caesar was in charge, people had realized that the year consisted of 365 1/4 days. Caesar decided to make the calendar conform to this and he said that a year would consist of 365 days. However, 6 hours of each year would be disregarded for three years and they would have a "make-up" day every fourth year. That's how we get an extra day every four years at the end of February.......today, February 29th.

Scientists have actually figured out that a year contains 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. After some time, a lot of time, like hundreds of years, this adds up. In 1582 the calendar was 10 days out of sync with the seasons. For a quick fix, Pope Gregory XIII decided to erase 10 days from the calendar. So if you can find a calendar from 1582, the days between October 4 and October 15th should be missing.....let's hope you didn't have plans for any of those days.

The British weren't quite so quick to adapt to this idea and they clung to the Julian calendar until 1752, then they realized they were 11 days behind....oops. They had some make-up days between September 2nd and September 14th of that year. We finally got everyone on the same page in the early twentieth century and "they" are pretty sure they have it figured out. But what if they don't have it figured out.

Can you imagine if President Bush came on TV tonight and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, ummmmm......I hate to break this to you, but.....well.......you see.......the calendar we currently use, well, it's off a little bit....so we're going to have to skip ahead 15 days. Tomorrow, it's going to be March 15th instead of March 1st. Good night, and good luck."

Sure, we'd eventually recover but what about that big meeting? What about my haircut I had scheduled? Am I going to get paid for those 15 days of work that I just missed? A lot of questions would come up. Makes me wonder a little bit about "global warming".....if 250 years ago they didn't even have the calendar figured out, how can they be sure that me driving a pickup truck is going to destroy the world?

Good luck.

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