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  • feedwordpress 08:01:42 on 2019/05/21 Permalink
    Tags: , calendar, Diocletianic Persecution, Diolcletian, Galerius, , , Seleucid, , ,   

    “‘For a while’ is a phrase whose length can’t be measured”*… 

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    A reproduction of the fragmentary Fasti Antiates Maiores (c. 60 BC) [source]


    What year is it? It’s 2019, obviously. An easy question. Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it. All of us are fluent with these years; we, and most of the world, use them without thinking. They are ubiquitous. As a child I used to line up my pennies by year of minting, and now I carefully note dates of publication in my scholarly articles.

    Now, imagine inhabiting a world without such a numbered timeline for ordering current events, memories and future hopes. For from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles…

    Once local and irregular, time-keeping became universal and linear in 311 BCE. History would never be the same again: “A Revolution in Time.”

    See also: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”*…

    * Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun


    As we mark time, we might recall that it was on this date in 293 that Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian appoint Galerius as Caesar to Diocletian, beginning the period of four rulers known as the Tetrarchy.  Although he was a staunch opponent of Christianity, Galerius ended the Diocletianic Persecution when he issued an Edict of Toleration in Serdica in 311.


    Porphyry bust of Galerius [source]


  • feedwordpress 09:01:51 on 2019/01/01 Permalink
    Tags: , calendar, , , Julian Calendar, , , schadenfreude, , ,   

    “It is not enough that I succeed, others must fail”*… 

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    Who said “it is not enough that I succeed, others must fail”? According to Tiffany Watt Smith, in this spry book, it might have been Gore Vidal or Genghis Kahn. According to the internet it is either La Rochefoucauld or Somerset Maugham. Having thought about it a bit, it might actually have been me, or perhaps it was Watt Smith herself. The point is that it doesn’t really matter since taking pleasure in another’s misfortune turns out to be a pungent but free-floating feeling that pops up everywhere. The flavours might change – as an academic cultural historian Watt Smith is far from suggesting that emotions are universal across time and place – but there is something familiar to us all about the odd stab of pleasure we get when an enemy or even, God help us, a friend, stumbles.

    So it is odd that the English language does not have a word for this grubby little pleasure – instead we have to borrow from the German and call it Schadenfreude (literally “damage-joy”)…

    Kathryn Hughes considers that delicious feeling of satisfaction at the “epic fails” of somebody else in a review of Tiffany Watt Smith’s Schadenfreude- the Joy of Another’s Misfortune: “Damage-joy.”

    * see above


    As we try not to snicker, we might recall that it was on this date in 45 B.C.E. that the Julian Calendar came into effect.  It was the predominant calendar in the Roman world, most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was refined and gradually replaced by the Gregorian calendar, promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

    (The Julian calendar remains useful for some scientific, especially astronomical, purposes, as it provides a linear count of days from a starting point. which was introduced by Joseph Scaliger in 1583.  Julian Day 0 is defined as noon on Monday, January 1, 4713 B.C.E. (in the Julian Calendar).  Regardless of leap years and calendar changes by the Romans or Pope Gregory, the Julian date number enables the easy calculation of the number of days between two dates by simply taking the difference in their Julian day number. This is useful, say, for astronomers’ calculations of the dates of eclipses.  Thus, the Julian day number of a day is defined as the number of days since noon GMT on 1 Jan 4713 B.C.E. in the Proleptic Julian Calendar, and each Julian day number runs from noon to noon.)

    122918-03-History-Calendar-768x439 source


  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2017/10/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , calendar, , , , J. Richard Gott, Roman calendar, , ,   

    “It’s the end of the world as we know it”*… 

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    “The probability of global catastrophe is very high,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned in setting the Doomsday Clock 2.5 minutes before midnight earlier this year. On nuclear weapons and climate change, “humanity’s most pressing existential threats,” the Bulletin’s scientists found that “inaction and brinkmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth.”

    Every day, it seems, brings with it fresh new horrors. Mass murderCatastrophic climate changeNuclear annihilation.

    It’s all enough to make a reasonable person ask: How much longer can things go on this way?

    A Princeton University astrophysicist named J. Richard Gott has a surprisingly precise answer to that question…

    Gott applies straight-forward logic and the laws of probability to setting our exit date.  “Calculations” haven’t worked out so well for Mayan seers or the likes of Harold Camping; but as you’ll read, Gott has tested his method, and done remarkably well… so: “We have a pretty good idea of when humans will go extinct.”

    * REM


    As we plan our parties, we might recall that it was on this date in (what we now call) 46 BCE, that the final year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar, began.  The Romans had added a leap month every few years to keep their lunar calendar in sync with the solar year, but had missed a few with the chaos of the civil wars of the late Republic. Julius Caesar added two extra leap months to recalibrate the calendar in preparation for his calendar reform, which went into effect in (what we now now as) 45 BC.  The year, which had 445 days, was thus known as annus confusionis (“year of confusion”).

    Fragmentary fresco of a pre-Julian Roman calendar




  • feedwordpress 09:01:01 on 2015/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: calendar, categorical imperative, Colin Dickey, , , , , ,   

    “The day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life”*… 

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    French Republican Calendar of 1794, Philibert-Louis Debucourt


    … The Earth’s orbit is almost — but not quite — a round number, and so we continually try to fit the natural world into a mathematical order that makes sense. Even though the Gregorian Calendar solved one major problem (a year now aligned with the time of the Earth’s orbit), in the eyes of many it’s still far from perfect, and two quirks of its construction have continued to nag those inclined towards a more rational calendar. First is the inconsistent number of days in each month, and second, the fact that 365 is not divisible by seven, so that each year calendar dates fall on different days of the week…

    Colin Dickey explores some the modern attempts to “correct” these short-comings in “Tempo Shifts.”

    … As the Sumerian God Gozer tells Bill Murray and friends at the climax of Ghostbusters, we choose the means of our destruction. The End we imagine, Kermode writes, “will reflect [our] irreducibly intermediary preoccupations,” which is why the Apocalypse is always assumed to be happening within years or decades, rather than centuries or millennia. The plain fact being that no matter how we try to organize and structure the calendar — be we French Revolutionaries, post-Soviet mathematicians, or American evangelicals — we design it so that we are the center of history. Time and tide may wait for no man, but the calendar always revolves around the calendar-makers.

    The full– and fascinating– story here.

    * George Carlin


    As we count the days, we might spare a thought for Immanuel Kant; he died on this date in 1804.  One of the central figures of modern philosophy, Kant is remembered primarily for his efforts to unite reason with experience (e.g., Critique of Pure Reason [Kritik der reinen Vernunft], 1781), and for his work on ethics (e.g., Metaphysics of Morals [Die Metaphysik der Sitten], 1797) and aesthetics (e.g., Critique of Judgment [Kritik der Urteilskraft], 1790).  But he made important contributions to mathematics as well:  Kant’s argument that mathematical truths are a form of synthetic a priori knowledge was cited by Einstein as an important early influence on his work.

    There is … only a single categorical imperative and it is this: Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

    - Chapter 11, Metaphysics of Morals


  • feedwordpress 08:01:51 on 2014/10/05 Permalink
    Tags: calendar, , , , , Pope Gregory, , , ,   

    “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”*… 

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    H.G. Well’s The Time Machine is widely credited with having popularized the prospect of time travel (though Edward Page Mitchell”s short story, “The Clock That Ran Backwards” surely deserves a nod).  In fact, the notion of travel into the future dates back to the Mahabharata; and travel into the past, while more modern, to the 18th century (e.g., Samuel Madden’s 1733 novel Memoirs of the Twentieth Century).  The concept flowered in the 19th century– e.g., Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”.  And of course, it has flourished in our time, bot in countless novels and in the newer media of radio, film. and television.

    At our post-relativity times, scientists have increasingly taken the concept seriously, looking for theories that might suggest that traversing time might be possible (both backwards and forwards) and investigating claims that time travel has already happened.

    So it should come as no surprise that scientists are exploring a new frontier, the internet for evidence, of visitors from another era…

    Two researchers from the Department of Physics at Michigan Technological University decided to search the Internet for such evidence and have completed the study, “Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers,” submitted on December 26 on ArXiv. Authors Robert Nemiroff, professor of physics, and Teresa Wilson, a PhD candidate, said, “The modern ubiquity” of the Internet lends itself to far-reaching methods to search for time travelers. They said a benefit from their effort, given the great reach of the Internet, is that their search is “the most comprehensive to date”…

    Read more at PhysOrg’s “Michigan researchers hunt for Internet remnants from time travelers.”  It’s a fascinating read, though– spoiler alert– none were found.

    Still, as Randall Monroe reminds us, we’re all time travelers…


    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-01-michigan-internet-remnants.html#jCp

    * Albert Einstein


    As we check our watches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1582 that Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland introduced the Gregorian calendar.  While this was “October 5″ in the rest of the world, those four countries, adopting Pope Gregory XIII’s innovation, skipped ten days– so that there, the date shifted from October 4 the day before to October 15.  With the shift, the calendar was aligned with the equinoxes, and the lunar cycles used to establish the celebration of Easter.  Britain and its colonies resisted this Popish change, and used the Julian calendar for another century and a half, until September 2, 1752.

    From a work published in 1582, the year of the calendar reform; days 5 to 14 October are omitted.



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