Thursday Night History Lesson

If you've been paying attention at all to the Thursday Night Series here on Alpha60 you'll likely have noticed that our site's curator, King Mob Andrew Jackson doesn't think I know how time works. He's wrong about that. He's also wrong about how he thinks time works. But I'll admit as much that nobody really knows, including me, how time operates. More or less it's operated on whimsy. One example of this is the Gregorian Calendar, the one that replaced the Julian Calendar and is currently the one the Western world uses today. At least more or less, that is, as there are at least five or six different calendars in use, but we'll focus on the one used for practicality tonight, the Gregorian, and see what we learn. So, listening ears and thinking minds, put 'em on.

  1. The Julian Calendar: Might as well start with the one preceding the Gregorian, the one that we just stopped using one day. This calendar started in 45 BC, but wasn't implemented until 46 BC. Maybe reverse those dates. I really don't know. Whichever makes sense chronologically. Anyway, there isn't much difference at first glance between the Julian and the Gregorian calendars. Both calendars have seven days in a week and 52 weeks in a year and 12 months in a year and ten years in a decade. Both even has 365 days (kind of)!

  2. So what's the problem? I really don't know if it was a problem. The Gregorian calendar is problematic too, though the argument is that it is less problematic. The main problem with the Julian Calendar is that it actually has 365.25 days a year, which I didn't think was possible, but it turns out there's more to a day than we often give it credit. But it was developed around the earth's revolutions around the sun and refined the calendar that preceding it and didn't take into account that slight difference in days in a year, which leads to the .25 extra days per year. Looking at the calendar as a tool this leads to a few minutes of difference between the Julian Calendar and whatever the name is of the calendar is that it replaced. The difference between those two calenders, in time, is mere minutes. That might not seem like much, but extrapolated out across 128 years the Julian method of recording days gains an extra day. So something had to be done.

  3. The answer isn't leap year. Well it was and still is, but it's never been the perfect solution for time adjustment. That was figured out long before the Gregorian came into effect and leap years attempted to account for all the extra days the Julian calendar was stockpiling in reserve, presumably for a rainy day. The over site in this stockpiling of days wasn't addressed until 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII decided that something must be done to correct this problem that absolutely no more than two or three people even knew was a problem and took place at a time when dictators were no longer the arbiters of time, but rather Popes.

  4. The correction: Adjust the calendar utilizing a two-tiered approach.

  5. Tier One: Eliminate three leap years across four-hundred years. Now we have 97 leap years every four centuries rather than 100. FYI, the next non-leap year in the current four year leap-year cycle is 2100; 2200 then 2300 then 2400 all return to and obey the four-year-leap-year cycle, but 2500 will not. Basically we'll all be dead before we have a chance to miss what would otherwise be a standard leap year, so this effects us in almost no way at all.

  6. Tier Two: No clue how this works, but the guy who altered the leap year schedule, Aloysius Lilius, made the argument that the Julian Calendar messed up Easter. This as based on lunar cycles and I have no idea how that works or how he figured any of this out, but it has something to do with the equinox and that's how it was decided that Easter was being observed on the wrong day.

  7. All the good Popes celebrate Easter on the right day. Turns out Aloysius Lilius was right insofar as the calendar could be improved. To give you an idea by just how much remember that the Julian Calendar is 365.25 days long. The new Gregorian Calendar (named after the Pope, if you haven't figured that out) is 365.2425 days long. That's a grand total of 10 minutes 48 seconds per year less compared to the Julian.

  8. Not long after the Gregorian Calendar went into effect, people's average life-span increased by 10 minutes and 48 seconds.

  9. Pope Gregory, smart man that he was, realized that we still had the problem of all those extra days the Julian's stuck us with. Thankfully he had a solution and simply removed 10 entire days out of existence as though they never happened.

  10. The problem with the new calendar. Not even the Pope can just change time. He was not Julius Caesar, dictator of the only part of the world that mattered. Still, he had sway, but really only within the Catholic Church and Papal States. And what self-respecting Protestant is going to just let 10 days disappear by decree of an apparently mad Pope. So now the world is operating on two calendars depending on your religion and where you live just floating out there and one set of people is 10 whole days ahead of the folks observing the Gregorian Calendar, which is a seemingly unfair advantage, not to mention confusing when making dinner plans across party lines. Especially on Easter.

  11. The heavy hand of the Pope reigns supreme thanks to Spain. Phillip the II, supreme lord of Spain adopted the Gregorian Calendar and soon after that a few other countries did as well. Some countries held strong though, Great Britain among those. But like all things under the Pope's hand, it too gradually transitioned to the Gregorian time-keeping method. Albeit in 1752, with Pope Gregory giving a big ol' Catholic victory fist pump from the skies above when they did. Turkey would eventually come around as well, but not until 1917 and that's only because they kept missing important battle dates for World War I and figured they might as well get on board the Gregorian train as a last grasp effort to win the war.

  12. One other notable change is that with the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar New Year's Day was moved from April 1 to January 1. Maybe that's not the case and maybe it's not the case. It is the day of jokes after all.

  13. 10 days! Gone just like that. Some scientist argue that Pope Gregory invented the first ever time machine, one that set time out of balance for 400 years until the last hold outs finally adjusted.

  14. The Upshot: With all the changes to the calendar, as implemented by Pope Gregory XIII, subtle and small though they be, people still have no idea what day Easter falls on in a given year. Christmas is still the same though and you also live a bit longer.

Dr. Lorenzo Kincade

Saver of Lives; Resident of Alpha60; Renown Transplant Surgeon; Botanist; Breaker of Chain Letters; Editor of New England Journal of Medicine (Application Pending); Wearer of Livestrong Bracelet

This Island Alpha60