Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Happy Holidays to everyone! If you are traveling, hope you have a safe and hassle-free trip, especially if you're in the areas affected by the nasty weather here in the US. With the new administration about to take office, let's hope that 2009 will be a better year for physical science funding even with the current economic problems.

If you are not going to celebrate the season for to religious reasons, then maybe you could celebrate it as part of the 10 Days of Newton. Isaac Newton was thought to have been born on Christmas Day under the Julian calendar.

All very jolly — but then, ’tis the season. Yet things are not so simple. It turns out that the date of Newton’s birthday is a little contentious. Newton was born in England on Christmas Day 1642 according to the Julian calendar — the calendar in use in England at the time. But by the 1640s, much of the rest of Europe was using the Gregorian calendar (the one in general use today); according to this calendar, Newton was born on Jan. 4, 1643.

Rather than bickering about whether Dec. 25 or Jan. 4 is the better date to observe Newton’s Birthday, I think we should embrace the discrepancy and have an extended festival. After all, the festival of Christmas properly continues for a further 12 days, until the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. So the festival of Newton could begin on Christmas Day and then continue for an extra 10 days, representing the interval between the calendars.

So maybe we can add another "holiday" to this time of the year. :)


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