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Posts Tagged ‘calendar

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

 

schadenfreude

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

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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

 

Written by LW

January 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

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

 

“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

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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

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Written by LW

October 13, 2017 at 1:01 am

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

 

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

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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

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Written by LW

February 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“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…

 xkcd

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

* Albert Einstein

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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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Written by LW

October 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

I’m looking through you…

It is perhaps a sign of the times?  In any case, Eizo (more specifically, the German medical imaging subsidiary of the Japanese company) has issued a pin-up calendar that cuts right to the bone:

Miss September

See them all at Advertolog.  (TotH to UFUNK)

As we think again about responding to the X-Ray Specs ad in the back of that comic book, we might recall that on this date in 1768, the first commencement of a U.S. medical college was held at the College of Philadelphia (now, The University of Pennsylvania.)  With the establishment of a the Department of Medicine in 1765, CoP had become the first medical school in the U.S.

The institution granted ten Bachelor of Medicine degrees at this first commencement. Being alphabetically at the head of the list, John Archer became the  first doctor in the U.S. to receive such a degree. Four of these ten also received a Doctor of Medicine degree from the college three years later, in 1771. (The first Doctor of Medicine degree was granted in 1770 at King’s College– now Columbia University– in New York.)

The University of Pennsylvania Medical School (Originally, instruction took place in a wooden building, Surgeon’s Hall)

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