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To Leap Or No?: The Story of Leap Year

page 2

In 45 BC the Julian calendar was established and was used in the west until 1582. According to this calendar, each year contained twelve months and there was an average of 365.25 days in a year. This was achieved by having three years containing 365 days and one year containing 366 days. The discrepancy between the actual length of the year, 365.24219 and the adopted length, 365.25 at first seemed inconsequential. Over hundreds of years, however, it made quite a difference. This is because the seasons, which depend on the date in the tropical year, were getting progressively out of sync with the calendar date. To alleviate this, in 1582 Pope Gregory XII instituted the Gregorian Calendar. (Like Julius Caesar, he might have been a brilliant man, but he couldn’t think of anyone else to name his own calendar after.)

leaping frog The change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian involved the concept that century years (1700, 1800, etc) should only be leap years if divisible by 400. The net effect amounted to about 3 days in 10,000 years. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar in Catholic countries occurred in 1582. It eliminated ten days from the year; 4 October followed by 14 October, and stipulated that the year should begin on January 1. To confuse matters, in non-Catholic countries the change was made much later. Great Britain and her colonies adopted them in 1752, when September 2 was followed by 14 September and New Years Day was changed from March 25 to 1 January. (How did anyone ever know when their taxes or bills were due?)

Despite its widespread use, the Gregorian calendar is not without its weaknesses. For one thing, it cannot be divided into equal halves or quarters, the number of days per month is haphazard and months and years may begin on any day of the week. Holidays pegged to specific dates may also fall on any day of the week, and few Americans can predict when Thanksgiving will occur next year. Since Gregory Xll, many other proposals for calendar reform have been made, but none has been permanently adopted. In the meantime, the Gregorian calendar keeps dates in reasonable harmony with the universe and astronomical events.

Leap Year PartyAnd so my learned friends, ready or not, leap year is here. There’s not much you can do about it so you might as well accept it and make the best of it. Try closing your eyes all day on the 29th of February. Maybe you will be one of the few to not see the leap year coming. For those of us who can see it, our secret perception does not lie in our friendship with frogs, but rather in the grog and nog we have drunk a bit too much of. Make friends with some frogs that day. It won't stop leap year from happening, but it might make things more pleasant. The only difficulty seems to be finding a tavern that allows frogs to sit at the bar.

Happy Leap Year to all humans and concerned frogs everywhere.

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tech humor quotes
"Technology has enabled man to gain control over everything except technology."

"Never trust a computer that you can't throw out the window."
Steve Wozniak

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