Stealing Time

Today is February 29th, the ‘extra’ day we are given every four years to bring the calendar back into sync with the actual time it takes the Earth to go around the Sun. Leap years are actually much more complicated than most people think with exceptions every 100 years, but not every 400 years. Why? It all has a lot to do with decimals and in fact the Bad Astronomer recently posted explaining the whole thing with his calculator if you wish to try it out.

I’ve always thought that February 29th should be a national holiday. With Britain needing to add a few national holidays to come into line with Europe, why not make February 29th a ‘free’ day, instead of having it stolen away from us each year?

29 from Flickr user Leo Reynolds

Traditionally of course this is the day that women are ‘allowed’ to propose to men. In fact I was proposed to in 2000 by my friend Emily before an upcoming Las Vegas trip. We had hoped to have acquired an ex-spouse before we went to university. It never happened which is probably for the best.

So what will you be doing with your extra day? Even if you’re at work, some effort should be made to mark the occasion. If you can: have a baby. I’ve always liked that people can be born on a day which leaves them one-quarter the age of everyone else born that year. It acts as a great reminder that try as we might, we can’t quite get such a seemingly straight-forward thing as the calendar right. Why? Astronomy’s fault, of course!


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