Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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Today in History: September 14th

1501: Michelangelo’s second day of work on the statue of David. This is the day he started working on a certain part of the statue that you are probably very familiar with. You know the part I mean.

More Papal Bullshit

A Catholic plot to get us to not have a stupid calendar

1752: The Gregorian calendar is adopted by Britain, finally ceasing the slipping of the equinoxes due to the imprecision of the Julian calendar. The transition requires skipping 11 days, meaning that Sept. 14th followed Sept. 2nd. Under the rules of the old system, years were 365.25 days long, with a leap day every forth year, but because the year is actually shorter, 365.242 days, the extra leaps had pushed equinoxes earlier and earlier since Roman times. The solution was to jump forward by length of this accumulated error, and to abolish leap days on years ending in 00, unless they were evenly divisible by 400. Because the new calendar was decreed by Pope Gregory, it’s adoption was viewed as controversial throughout the non-Catholic parts of Europe and only gradually came into effect. Irish rebels, for instance, took on the calendar as an act of anti-English defiance, celebrating Easter on the new date, switching back after being conquered, then finally re-switching back once Britain itself adopted the calendar, thus coining the term ‘Irish Easter’ to mean a breakfast of scrambled eggs with a side of rabbit bacon.

Incredibly, instead of making the change all at once, Sweden made the bizarre decision to push the calendar forward gradually by simply not having leap years between 1700 and 1740, then immediately forgot this plan in 1704 and 1708, and had leap years anyway. This all means that Sweden would spend 40 years completely out of sync with either calendar, and then still end up 2 days off their intended target. Having acknowledged the plan’s failure after having forgotten to implement it, the Swedish King Charles XII decided to give up entirely, and go back to the Julian system in a royal decree titled “Fuck the Flow of History.” Since the Swedes were now 2 days off, this was accomplished by extending the month of February by 2 days instead of 1, and meant that for the first and only time, there was a February 30th, the most depressing date in history.

Although the pre-United States adopted the new calendar as the same time as the rest of the Britishish people, the territory of Alaska experienced it following its purchase from Russia in 1867. Additionally, the International Date Line, which had originally been on the Eastern side of Alaska had to shift over the proto-state. This was accomplished at great expense and difficulty by teams of oxen, steamer vessels, and loggers, who freed the line when it became stuck on tall trees. The expense incurred by the operation is known as “Seward’s Folly” and it’s costly example is the reason that China uses only one time zone.

Remember The McKinley

Fooled by the classic “gun under the handkerchief trick”

1901: US President William McKinley dies, having been shot one week earlier by Leon Czolgosz. Czolgosz is commonly referred to as an anarchist in accounts of the assassination, however he did have some specific demands. Among them, an increase in vowel shipments to Eastern Europe*. It is an historical curiosity that Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was present at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo where the shooting took place, at Ford’s Theater when his father was killed, and an eyewitness to the assassination of James Garfield, while serving as Secretary of War. His attendance at a third shooting gave him the rare ‘Presidential Assassination Hat-Trick’ allowing him to retire from the exhausting task of following presidents around hoping someone would kill them.

1987: The Toronto Blue Jays hit 10 home runs in a single game, setting a new record. This is partially due to the fact that Canadian baseballs have an oval shape to make them more aerodynamic, as well as the field having shorter right and left field walls to accommodate the rounder, five-base Canadian baseball diamond. Interestingly, due to the metric system, the Jays only managed to score 8.5 runs in the game, due to the fact that a homer only counts for half a run throughout the Dominion.

* The recent acquisitions of Hawaii and Guam in the Spanish-American War provided the US with a surplus of vowels which it was leveraging for diplomatic favors around the turn of the century.