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Earth Education News Science

Leap Days May Be Going Away In the Not Too Distant Future 165

StartsWithABang writes: The need for a February 29th, once every four years, doesn't just give us an extra day this year, but it keeps the calendar from drifting and failing to align with the seasons. Even so, the scheme we have worked out today, where years divisible by 4 but not those divisible by 100 unless also divisible by 400 get an extra day, isn't perfect, and will get worse as time goes on. The current misalignment between our calendar and the actual Earth's orbit is big enough that we'll be off by a day every 3,200 years, but bigger news is that the Earth's rotation rate is changing, as our day lengthens and our spin slows down. In another 4 million years, we won't need leap days at all, and if we extrapolate backwards, we can find that early Earth had a day that lasted just 6.5 hours.
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Leap Days May Be Going Away In the Not Too Distant Future

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  • by Ann O'Nymous-Coward ( 460094 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:49PM (#51594701)

    SINCE WHEN?

  • by raftpeople ( 844215 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:49PM (#51594705)
    1 day difference in 3,200 years? Better bump this up to high priority
    • It'll take that long to get through a Republican Congress if a Democrat authors the bill!

    • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @06:17PM (#51594971)

      If it exceeds my expected lifespan, it is "the distant future".

      I eat a lot of red meat. Tuesday is the distant future.

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        I eat a lot of red meat. Tuesday is the distant future.

        Perhaps so, but at least you're going to enjoy your remaining time.

        Animals... yum.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Leap millennial will fix that.
    • Well, it's 12 hours difference in 1600 years, and the substitution of mid-day for mid-night might possibly be slightly more noticeable than one midnight for another.

      There is no reason to expect that the orbital motion of a planet and it's rotational motion to be related in a simple ratio. (Except in the case of tidal locking, where the ratio is 1:1). So, unless you're going to go around adjusting rotation rates or orbits, then the slip between the two measures of time is just something you're going to have

  • by turning in circles ( 2882659 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:50PM (#51594717)
    To build the world and everything in it in 6.5 hour days. Wow.
  • by nwaack ( 3482871 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:53PM (#51594747)
    False. I feel like I just got click-baited.
    • You did - look at the submitter.

      Also, since we don't know when we got the moon (we're not even sure how we got it), we can't just extrapolate backwards to a day of 6.5 hours.

      • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @11:40PM (#51596593)
        You did - look at the submitter.

        A submitter that has had dozens of articles accepted, but has posted exactly one comment, and that was merely to make a correction to his/her submission. I frankly would not be too upset to see a rule implemented that says if you're not an active participant on the site, you don't get to submit articles. It might help to curb some of the unabashed clickbaiting.
        • You did - look at the submitter.

          A submitter that has had dozens of articles accepted, but has posted exactly one comment, and that was merely to make a correction to his/her submission. I frankly would not be too upset to see a rule implemented that says if you're not an active participant on the site, you don't get to submit articles. It might help to curb some of the unabashed clickbaiting.

          Great idea - hopefully whipslash is running a script to see whenever their nym pops up and will consider your idea [slashdot.org].

      • Also, since we don't know when we got the moon (we're not even sure how we got it), we can't just extrapolate backwards to a day of 6.5 hours.

        Correct answer (we can't simple extrapolate backwards) but for the wrong reasons (it's not uncertainty about the date of formation of the Moon that's the issue, it's the variable torque between the oceans and the seabed).

        I didn't bother to follow Ethan-ends-With-A-Whimper's links, but I welcom his movement from Forbes.com to the Torygraph and Nat.Geo (both Murdoch ra

        • If we accept the impact model, then we should expect that the chunks that ended up forming the moon were outside Roche's limit. Still, with the center of gravity of the earth-moon system being more than 4,000 km beneath the surface even today, I would expect gravity-induced compression and expansion of the crust, mantle, and outer core to come into play when it comes to bleeding off energy. The problem gets really interesting :-)
          • I would expect gravity-induced compression and expansion of the crust, mantle, and outer core to come into play when it comes to bleeding off energy.

            That is an effect. But rock is so much stiffer than water (and for that matter air) that the integral of force versus distance moved results in there being more work done by the hydrosphere (and atmosphere) than by the lithosphere. (The work also scales by mass moved as well as distance, so the contribution of the atmosphere is matched by the top 15m of the oce

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:55PM (#51594779)
    or make DST permanent. just stop changing the clocks. each US state can make that choice. it's not a federal thing.
    • I don't know, it's kind of fun to think of Arizona as cranky old curmudgeons that just refuse to get with the program. If everyone started doing that, it would be far less special.

    • Why do you think this is a question that affects the USA more or less than any other country? Issues of time management affect anyone who has to operate outside the borders of their parochial little country. (Which goes for any country with less than 1/5 of the Earth's land surface, e.g. Russia, at 1/8th and 10 time zones.)
  • That's it, game over.
  • Bang (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Longjmp ( 632577 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:56PM (#51594785)
    Can someone make StartsWithABang end with a bang please?

    He's getting really annoying and any of his post isn't news nor relevant.
    No leap days soon? In 4 million years. Right.
    And I'm saying that as someone who is interested in astronomy.
  • There are fixes that simply updates the leap-year conditional and bumps the problem 32k years or so. See also Leap Years: we can do better [youtube.com] (standupmaths) or google Adam Goucher.
  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:59PM (#51594817)

    Why have months be uneven? Why add the extra leap year day to February of all the worst of months? I wish they would do 13 moon phase months and then we get a little extra at the end of the year at Summer Solstice and every four years we could have an extra day then.

    • Damn it, we don't have time for rational solutions!
    • by RDW ( 41497 )

      Personally, I always observe the Shire Reckoning:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @06:51PM (#51595289)

      Why add the extra leap year day to February of all the worst of months?

      This! Yeah, adding another day of winter is just so depressing. They should add the day in July, maybe next to July 4 so we could have a four or five day weekend in the summer when it is nice and sunny and warm out.

      But don't worry, in a few years it will be warm and sunny in February, and you won't want another day in July when it will be unbearably hot.

      and then we get a little extra at the end of the year

      I think there ought to be a system where we can bank extra days if we don't want to use them and let them roll over into the next year or maybe two years later. That way, if we're having a good year we can extend it by a week or two, and if we're having a bad year we can end it early.

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        But don't worry, in a few years it will be warm and sunny in February, and you won't want another day in July when it will be unbearably hot.

        You mean like it has been practically all month here, except for the occasional (quite welcome) rain days? It has been an incredibly mild winter, even by Southern California standards.

      • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @08:07PM (#51595697)

        I think there ought to be a system where we can bank extra days if we don't want to use them and let them roll over into the next year or maybe two years later. That way, if we're having a good year we can extend it by a week or two, and if we're having a bad year we can end it early.

        Yeah, the Ancient Romans tried that system. Originally, months began with the new moon, and the high priest was tasked with declaring when that happened. (The day was the Kalends [wikipedia.org] of the month, meaning "called out," since it was the day the new month was announced by the priest -- it's where we get our word "calendar.)

        Anyhow, calling out the new moon was a bit of an imprecise business, since when is that last sliver gone and when does the new one begin? It's a bit of a judgment call. High priests were known to take bribes to delay the Kalends or move it up a day.

        In the later Republic, the various month lengths were more standardized and no longer depended on the moon. But they didn't add up to a year exactly (355 days), so every so often they'd need an intercalation [wikipedia.org] to introduce an extra month, named Terminalia, which happened after the 23rd of February. (Why did it happen then? Probably because that was toward the end of winter and not much tended to be going on business-wise, so it wasn't disruptive to commerce or other cycles to have the calendar messed up then.)

        Anyhow, the priest could get a bigger bribe for inserting or not inserting the intercalation MONTH in a particular year. If your friends are in office, they get a longer year; if your enemies are in office, they get a shorter year. You get the picture. (Also, the Romans had a lot of superstitions around particular days and months of the calendar; doing an intercalation in a pivotal year of war or something could be problematic from a luck perspective.)

        Anyhow, this crap got the calendar so messed up that eventually Caesar came in and had to create the so-called "Year of Confusion" (46 BC), which was 445 days long [wikipedia.org], just to get the seasons aligned correctly again.

        So, yeah -- I'd advise against this sort of calendar tampering. Bad stuff happens. Heck, Caesar died only a couple years later, which maybe goes to show the Roman superstitions on intercalation were right. (or not...)

        • to introduce an extra month, named Terminalia, which happened after the 23rd of February. (Why did it happen then? Probably because that was toward the end of winter and not much tended to be going on business-wise, so it wasn't disruptive to commerce or other cycles to have the calendar messed up then.)
          The roman year ended in February and started in March, hence they added the extra days at the end of the year.

    • then we get a little extra at the end of the year at Summer Solstice

      Nice try south-of-the-equator-er!

      Just say no to pushing Christmas back once every 4 years, and when it's so damn close.

      As a purely objective solution, it should be after a floating holiday, so that extra weekend day. Or better yet, repeat the day. Who wouldn't want Oct 31 (v1) and Oct 31 (v2) on the calendar every four years?

      You might say, non-Americans who don't celebrate Halloween. But Christmas is only for Christians, and July 4th an

      • What would be the problem about pushing Christmas back to once every four years? Isn't that about the number of practising Christians in your country (it's certainly too high an estimate for mine)?
    • There are so many different ideas for re-doing our time system that we have to categorize them [wikipedia.org] to keep track of them all.

      Some are better than others, but none is enough of an improvement to make it worth the switch.
    • by virx ( 459384 )

      Because February was last month of the year.

    • Because until recently we had 12 zodiac signs, it feels convenient to have one per month.

      Older cultures indeed had 13 months each 28 days long and a festival period for the other days. Christians destroyed those cultures, at least in Europe, no idea about other continents/areas.

      This might be interesting for you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      Also interesting is the use of two overlapping calendars simultaneously: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      Or if your life is centered a bit around poetry and zen: ht [kurashikata.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:59PM (#51594821)

    Just so we're clear, is the last year with a leap day the year 4,000,000 or 4,002,016? Asking for a friend...

  • by Teun ( 17872 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @06:00PM (#51594831) Homepage
    And then it turns around so we need to take a day out every once in a while.
    In less than 8 million years it'll be one day per year!
  • Was it you Jehovah? Don't look at Allah like that. Zeus did it last time, which mean's it is your turn.
  • Here's to February 30th, 3200. Should be a blast.
  • Can you give us a date? I need to set a notification on my phone to when we won't be using leap days anymore.

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @06:49PM (#51595265)

    Those of you who didn't cut corners or use the wrong functions for manipulating date and time pass the test. Your reward is the lingering possibility of being fucked over by vendors who have failed the test.

    https://azure.microsoft.com/en... [microsoft.com]

    --
    https://technet.microsoft.com/... [microsoft.com]

  • Who gives a F... ?
    insert what you like better: uck, art, lick etc....

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @07:29PM (#51595519) Homepage

    if we extrapolate backwards, we can find that early Earth had a day that lasted just 6.5 hours.

    How simplistic is such a backwards extrapolation?

    https://xkcd.com/605/ [xkcd.com] (most of you won't even need to click the link, I'm sure)

    • How simplistic is such a backwards extrapolation?

      Excessively simplistic, for the reasons I gave in a post somewhere up thread.

  • There are only a few thousand years left to replace our Christian-Roman calendar with a more accurate one before we accidentally celebrate Easter on the wrong day.

  • by walkermc20 ( 1007135 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @08:46PM (#51595917)
    ...then dinosaurs would "weigh" around 4.5% less than they should at today's gravity. Totally explains why they all died...as the earth started slowing, they eventually became too heavy to survive and all sank into the earth to become fossils. Quick! Get me some paper! I'm publishing a new textbook!
  • - For most of Earth's history it had no polar icecaps whatsoever. That is the most common state of this planet. The only reason we currently have polar icecaps is because we are still emerging from the most recent glaciation (i.e., ice age).

    - Only 50 million years ago, there were thousands of ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, [wikipedia.org] and Antarctica was covered with lush beech forests. The subsequent decrease in CO2 caused the continent to become a barren wasteland of ice; it was not good for life. The current lev

    • Hush... You're dicking with the hysteria narrative.

      • Lol, I'm not trying to dick with it, I'm trying to utterly demolish it, as should be done to all hoaxes, especially the misanthropic ones like AGW. So mod me up! Some kool-aid drinker has already modded me down.

  • are the slashdot editors? For humans, 4 million years is a rather long time. Even 3200 years is a long time.
    • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )
      A lecturer was saying, "...and in about a billion years, the sun will expand and engulf the Earth..." when a student stood up and raised his hand. "Excuse me sir, what did you just say?" The lecturer repeated, "about a billion years." "Phew", said the student, sitting down, "I thought you said million."
  • Whiplash (Score:5, Informative)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @04:10AM (#51597291)

    I was just thinking that the new owners cleaned up a bit, and we hadn't seen this abusive clickbaiter in a while. Alas, not so.

    Whiplash please check out StartsWithABang's stats.
    0 posts on Slashdot
    500+ attempted submissions.
    125 submissions actually made it to the front page.
    100% of submissions are links to his own blog on forbes and previously medium.
    Nearly all of his slashdot submissions have comments that are primarily complaints about his garbage posts, clickbait summaries, incorrect science, and the fact he uses slashdot as a personal advertising platform.

    I'm not asking you to do anything about it other than read his previous submission comments and draw your own conclusions.

    • 500+ attempted submissions. 125 submissions actually made it to the front page.

      That's a pretty good rate, actually. I wonder what mine is.

      • 99 total, 20.20% accepted)

        Surprising that our rates are so similar.

        • Are each of your submissions to articles you wrote yourself, sometimes with multiple submission? (Yes I've seen some of his crap posted more than once for the same article in the firehose).

          But there's another nice comparison, a stat I left out:
          In this thread alone you RockDoctor have double the amount of comments ever contributed by StartsWithABang. In this thread alone you have shown to be twice the community member he is (and his first and last comment was in 2014).

          I've seen your stuff. Lots of things fro

          • I don't feel any need to compare my contributions to this site over the 20-ish years I've been posting here with "Bang's." I don't feel a need to commercially exploit my online activities ; Bang clearly does. If you do your research on him, you'll find that he was an "adjunct professor" (whatever one of those is) in astrophysics at some minor college somewhere in America, but hasn't had any apparent position since. My guess is that this is how he puts some food on the table. Unless you're sure you won't fin
            • Unless you're sure you won't find yourself in his shoes, I'd temper the criticism from some of the more rabid critics.

              He has a right to put food on his table as much as I have a right to complain about how he does it. Switching to a real world example: would you still feel the same way if someone was busking outside your bedroom window at 1am? That was real world because the city I lived in a few years ago had just that drama. They banned busking in the streets after a certain time due to resident complaints and the argument was exactly the same.

              Now if you'll excuse me I need to put some food on my table and these ransdsom

    • I'm starting to feel nostalgic for Bennett Haselton.

  • Perhaps Ethan should follow their example?

  • We should switch over to skipping one leap day every 128 years, which is much closer to fixing the discrepancy than the not-by-100-unless-by-400 rule.
  • Given that the Human race is arguably somewhere between 500,000 and one million years old, it doesn't seem likely that we humans will ever need to worry about that before our race ends, or we leave this planet. Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac had an excellent analysis of the "new" Gregorian calendar system; it will, most likely, be accurate as is for another 24,000 years. And all we'll need to do to fix it for the NEXT 24,000 years will be to add an extra leap day.

    Worry about IMPORTANT things, not t

  • Just saying....

    Casts out his lines behind his boat trolling his lures.

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