Bil Browning

Yeah, leap year. BFD.

Filed By Bil Browning | February 29, 2008 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: humorous blog post, leap seconds, leap year

Jerame thought I should post on this. It didn't really matter to me. Since it's already spurred some discussion around the old homestead, I thought I'd compromise with Jerame on the post.

It's leap year. Today is Feb 29. Big deal.

Yes, it only comes around once every four years. So do Governor's races and I'm not usually celebrating those either. I think there's a locust that's on a four year cycle too.

After all, what's the celebration for? A band-aid.

When we adopted our calendar a while back, there was some sort of cosmic screwup. Not everything measured out properly, so we ended up with an extra day stuck in every four years.

Do scientists not have someone out there who can actually fix this problem instead of just stuffing a book under our measurement of time's table leg? Do all the engineers work for Microsoft now and have fallen into the "just patch it" mentality?

"But what if your birthday was the 29th?" Jerame counters.

"I'd pick a new birthday," I said. "There's always Feb 28th or March 1st."

Apparently though, that messes up your karmic mojo and makes filling out those free astrological reports online absolutely impossible. Claiming midnight on Feb 28th just isn't good enough.

Of course, that would just be a band-aid too.

Apparently while I'd just call myself pragmatic, some think I'm the Grinch That Stole Leap Year. Next thing you know, we'll want to have leap seconds and think of many damn gifts and cards that'll require.

Dammit.


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Why are leap years needed?
Leap years are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the earth's revolutions around the sun. By adding a leap year approximately every fourth year, the difference between the calendar and the seasons can be reduced significantly, and the calendar will align with the seasons much more accurately. Although very weard to have leap year it makes much more since than day-light-savings. Thanks Mitch.

I found this: "The desert environment becomes more inhospitable to the enemies of the locust during the minima of the sun-spot cycle (periods of drier and more intense heat), leading to a reduction in the population of the locust enemies which consequently results to an increase in locust population and swarm formation." Sun-spot cycles are every 11 years.
http://www.krishiworld.com/html/insect_pest_crops3.html

See, we can talk about anything here.

(Damn. I get the feeling Becky will start screaming at me for discussing locust because I'm being "insectist.")

I just heard a report on NPR that explained we already do have leap seconds. Since we've moved to the atomic clock, we've seen that not only is the earth's rotation not exactly 24 hours, but it also is not static. The exact time it takes to make a full roatation can change depending on the moon's gravitational pull, snow melting, and movements of the molten lava in the earth's core.

So in order to keep our clocks in sync with the earth's rotation, the scientists will toss in a leap second every now and then to match it all up. That is causing problems with the satallites and GPS services, though, so there's talk of getting rid of leap seconds.

We don't have to add an extra day every four years
however the alternative would be more inconvenient if
we wanted to keep the start of the new year in the same cosmic point in space. It's really very simple
just delay the start of the new year by six hours
every year. Next year the new year would begin at 6:AM. The year after Noon etc...

I happen to like the fact my Mother was borne on the
first day of winter. Her brother was borne on the first day of summer. Their father was borne on New years Day. (no kidding)

Over my life i have had two friends borne on today
and one couple married on this day. This is their
first wedding anniversary.

Sue

Actually, Bil, it's even more complicated than that. The year doesn't have an extra six hours exactly, but slightly less. Therefore, to keep the calendar in sync with the seasons, century years that are evenly divisible by 400 do not have leap year days --- remember, the year 2000 was not a leap year? The Julian calendar, which did not have leap days, got so out of whack that Isaac Newton had two birthdays one year, as they switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is expected to be reasonably in sync for the next 16,000 years. But the Russians have a different calendar that times the leap days differently, and that calendar is expected to be accurate for about the next 30,000 years. But by then, humanity will have civilizations on other celestial bodies, and possibly outside of the solar system itself, and sync-ing the seasons to the earth calendar will not seem nearly as important.

So, Bil, you are absolutely right: the current arrangement is just a 16,000-year Band-Aid ... and it's probably a good idea to change your Band-Aid at least once every 16,000 years ... and, Bil, if you don't like this set-up, then just please be patient ... they will have to change it to something else ... eventually.

... And pray that they don't let the next calendar system be designed by the Indiana legislature.

I didn't mention this but every once and a while they add a leap second to the year at the end...
It is a ritual of mine to make sure that i am
not doing anything during 11:59:60 on the 31st of December and June 30 in years they add a leap second. Since 1970 there have been (as i remember) 22 leap seconds added to keep us in sync with what is referred to as
UT1.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UT1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_second

Yah being lazy no HTML formatting for the links this time...

Most people don't know that the Earth's orbit around the sun follows the center of gravity in the solar system. meaning that as the larger planets are closer to the earth their gravitational influence causes the Earth to speed up a little. This speeding up also makes the Earth's orbit a little more elipital (sorry spelling)

The first mistake someone studying astronomy makes is the misinformed belief that everything in the solar system is constant.

Even the sun's output not only changes intensity, it also changes it's spectral output (color)

Time is relative anyway.
:)
Take care
Sue

What AJ said, and it isn't anyone's fault that the earth rotates at a speed that doesn't divide evenly into how fast it revolves. They're two independent acts, and the fact that all we have to do is add a day every four years is pretty amazing. It could be worse.

Or we could do like the Muslim calendar, and start the year a little bit earlier each time around. And that way January would eventually be summer, and then winter again, etc. That might be fun for a while.

I didn't celebrate leap day though. I completely forgot until I read this post.