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Take a Leap

February 29, 2012

Today is February 29th, a day that only happens once every four years. We have figured out that by throwing in an extra day, all of our calendars stay on track. Otherwise, approximately every 1,460 years, the calendar would make a total rotation. In other words, about every 730 years, we would celebrate Christmas on a day that more resembled June 25!

According to the article on the Gregorian calendar in Wikipedia, the following calculations guide our calendars:

It is a solar calendar and counts days as the basic unit of time, grouping them into years of 365 or 366 days; and repeats completely every 146,097 days, which fill 400 years, and which also happens to be 20,871 seven-day weeks. Of these 400 years, 303 common years have 365 days and 97 leap years have 366 days. This yields a calendar mean year of exactly 365+97/400 days = 365.2425 days = 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds.1

According to my non-scientific brain, when the clocks and calendars were invented, if a second were a mere .00059138791350951764923304379966734% longer (that is roughly six ten thousandths), we would virtually never have had a leap year. Every year, the sun would match our calendars. But, someone blew their math assignment and we now have to make a correction nearly every four years.

The earth and its solar systems seem to do an amazing job of keeping their end of the bargain for predictability. Here we are, several thousand years into creation and calendars, and the universe has not hiccupped in a way to make us stop predicting tides, sunrises, and sunsets with amazing accuracy.

When you are out and about for this Leap Day, take a minute to give thanks for the intricate details the Architect tended to. It might lead you to take a leap of faith!

1 Wikipedia, “Gregorian Calendar”. The point of this blog article is not to prove any mathematical concept. They are just fun numbers to think about.

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