Funny image of Kuiper mid-shaking off.

Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey

“Wibbly wobbly…timey wimey…stuff.”

No Kuipers were harmed in the taking of these pictures; he’s just shaking off. ?

On this day in 1643, Isaac Newton was born on Christmas in 1642. Don’t worry; this isn’t the result of a rift in the spacetime continuum.* It’s a reflection of a calendar change that occurred nearly 300 years ago.

Up until 1752, Britain and its colonies used the Julian calendar. The eponymous Julius Caesar had implemented it in 45 BC, and much of the world used the system for over 1600 years. The Julian was a huge improvement over the previous Roman calendar, especially after some adjustments by Julius’ successor Augustus.

The Julian calendar pegged a “year” at 365.25 days, with a leap year every 4 years. In reality, it takes us 365.2422 days to make a trip around the sun. That’s a difference of just 11 minutes Close enough, right? Well, maybe…

By 1582, 11 minutes per day had added up into a drift of 10 days. The Catholic Church was getting super annoyed that Easter had migrated so far from the Spring Equinox. Several new calendars were proposed, and Pope Gregory XIII ended up implementing the one by astronomer Aloysius Lilius.

Like the Julian calendar, the new “Gregorian” system still added an extra day for leap years every 4 years, but it made a couple of exceptions. If a year is divisible by 100, no leap year. However, if it is divisible by 400, yes leap year (that’s why we had one in 2000.)

Predominantly Catholic countries like Belgium, France and Spain more or less implemented the calendar immediately in 1582 (which even meant that some areas didn’t get a Christmas that year.) However, other countries held out longer (Greece was the last to adopt it and ended up with no Christmas in 1923, but two Christmases in 1924.)

When Britain and the American colonies finally got around to adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1752, they skipped September 3rd – September 13th. And that’s the story of how Isaac Newton was both born on Christmas and not born on Christmas.

* (as discussed previously, we’re currently living under Terminator rules, but this may be amended to Terminator 2 with a split Congress. Stay tuned ?)

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