Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

What a peculiar day February 29 is. I mean, why is an extra day added to the end of February, and not in, say, April or September? It's just very arbitrary.

But I guess the more important question to ask is why is an extra day necessary? For that, the answer is pretty straight-forward. Over the course of four seasons (autumn, winter, spring, and summer), they last for 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds, which as you can infer, is a tad over one full calendar year. But if you pay attention, that extra time is enough to keep all the four seasons out of sync if something isn't done to rectify the situation. If a typical calendar year stays fixed at 365 days, then after 30 years, all the seasons would be a week off. And after 100 years, they'd all be off by a month. Can you just imagine if summer took place in October? Me neither.

So who proposed a 366th day as a quadrennial occurrence? Thank Sosigenes of Alexandria. In the first century B.C., Roman emperor Julius Caesar wanted to do away with multiple calendars that had little continuity. He enlisted Sosigenes, a Greek astronomer, to help devise the Julian calendar, a predecessor to the Gregorian calendar we use today. (In case you didn't notice, July was named after Caesar, as well.) It was Sosigenes who insisted that an extra day be added once every four years to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. Caesar obliged, the Julian calendar came into effect in 45 B.C., and the rest, as they say, is history.

February 29 is truly odd because of an uncertainty about how people born on that day celebrate their birthday. In non-leap years, those whose birthdays don't "exist" can choose to celebrate the day before, February 28, or the day after, March 1. It depends on where one lives, though.

But don't fret. Several famous people were also born on February 29. Among others, they include Pope Paul III, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, NHL goalie Cam Ward, and Philadelphian typesetter Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior. Seriously. And it hasn't deterred them the least bit.

Well... unless you're a pirate apprentice.

Picture of leap frogs courtesy of

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