February 30

Perfect If You Hate Birthdays

Perfect If You Hate Birthdays

This is for those of you who absolutely hate to celebrate birthdays. The problem is you would have to have been born in Sweden in 1712, on a day which was officially listed in the calendar as February 30, 1712. Since there has never been another February 30 in Sweden, you would have died before reaching your first birthday. No cake or presents or Happy Birthday songs for you! (I wonder how many Swedes were so affected.)

According to Futility Closet, where I saw this story, Sweden had some calculation problems in switching from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. At first, they omitted all leap days between 1700 and 1740, but in 1712, hey decided to have both a February 29 and a February 30. It was not until 1753 that the Gregorian calendar was fully implemented. Until then, there remained a lot of confusion.

Speaking of which, has Sweden ever had any notable mathematicians. Just wondering.

Uayeb

It’s the Shortest Month of the Year

It’s the Shortest Month of the Year

We’ve been hearing a lot about the Mayan Calendar lately, mostly in connection with The End of the World last week. Well, it didn’t end; and the Mayan Calendar goes on into a new baktun.

In the Haab’, or Mayan Solar Calendar, there are eighteen months of twenty days each. Where does that leave the other 5.25 days? To account for the difference, the Mayans created an intercalary five-day month referred to as the uayeb. Unlike other days in the Solar Calendar, the five days of the uayeb are thought to be a dangerous time (and so they are with the so called “Fiscal Cliff” looming).

According to Lynn Foster in Handbook to Life in the Ancient Mayan World, “During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters.” It was a time of fasting with abstention from sex and all celebrations. People avoided washing their hair or even leaving their huts during this time.

As we in the United States come to the end of another uayeb, I hope we are ready for what 2013 brings. Because, ready or not, here it comes….

 

 

Happy 13.0.0.0.0!

Nope, Not Quite the End of the World

Nope, Not Quite the End of the World

I hope you’re enjoying all the craziness about the upcoming end of the world on December 21, 2012—according to the (snicker) Mayan Calendar. On that day, Martine and I will be driving to Palm Springs, where we will stand in flowing white robes, holding hands, on top of Mount San Jacinto. No, wait, actually we’ll be spending time with my brother Dan and his family, who are renting a house in PS for the holidays.

After my extensive travels to the Mayan area between 1975 and 1992—about eight trips in all—I managed to learn something about the Mayans and their calendar. The most important thing to note is that it recycles at the end of every 5,125-year cycle. According to some interpretations, one of those periods ends on Friday, though there is widespread disagreement among archaeologists on correlating the date to our own calendar.

The Mayans have already gone through a good deal more than twelve of those cycles, which they call baktuns. There are even longer cycles, called piktuns. The next piktun ends around October 13, 4772. There are even larger cycles called kalabtuns, kinchiltuns, and alautuns, which stretch millions of years into the future.

It looks to me as if the Mayans were planning to be around for a long, long time. A good deal longer than the morons who think the whole shooting match is over.

So let me be the first to wish you a happy 13th baktun of the current piktun. I hope all of you have a great 13.0.0.0.0.

You can read more about the Mayan calendar at Wikipedia (here and here) and at Tikalpark.Com. Just remember that this is just another Moronic Divergence, or should I say Harmonic Convergence?