The Calendar: The 5000-year Struggle to Align the Clock and the Heavens - and What Happened to the Missing Ten Days
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The 5,000-year struggle to align the heavens with the clock and what happened to the missing ten days. Measuring the daily and yearly cycle of the cosmos has never been entirely straightforward.The year 2000 is alternatively the year 2544 (Buddhist), 6236 (Ancient Egyptian), 5761 (Jewish) or simply the year of the Dragon (Chinese). The story of the creation of the Western calendar is a story of emperors and popes, mathematicians and monks, and the growth of scientific calculation to the point where, bizarrely, our measurement of time by atomic pulses is now more acurate than Time itself: the Earth is an elderly lady and slightly eccentric - she loses half a second a century. Days have been invented (Julius Caesar needed an extra 80 days in 46BC), lost (Pope Gregory XIII ditched ten days in 1582) and moved (because Julius Caesar had thirty-one in his month, Augustus determined that he should have the same, so he pinched one from February). The Calendar links politics and religion, astronomy and mathematics, Cleopatra and Stephen Hawking. And it is published as millions of computer users wonder what will happen when, after 31 December 1999, their dates run out...
old in 406, when the Mainz hordes broke through the frontier, and lived to see the dismemberment of Gaul, Spain and North Africa. Indeed, the backdrop of the empire’s slow collapse obviously influenced Augustine’s philosophical outlook, which favoured a secure, perfect ‘city of God’ over the faltering ‘city of man’. Born just 17 years after Constantine’s death, Augustine grew up in the small provincial city of Tagaste, 40 miles from the coast of what is today Algeria. In a meteoric early career
among the forerunners of a new breed about to come of age in a Europe finally shaking off its slumber. Men who would be raised and educated not in monasteries but in Europe’s slowly reviving cities, where news of other cultures was arriving along with the first scatterings of long-lost texts by Greeks and newer writings by Arab and Indian scholars. Read and pondered, these would challenge not only the validity of old assumptions about the sun, moon and the nature of time, but also the nature of
and the Rome of the early emperors representing a swing toward the secular, and Constantine and later Augustine swerving over to embrace the sacred. Now for Europe in the High Middle Ages, this debate had returned in full fury to become an epochal argument, one that would either propel it into a new age of empiricism and secularism or sustain it in a world of mysticism and faith. For several centuries, until long after Copernicus and even Galileo, the outcome would remain unclear, with
Alexandria, though it took until Newton for astronomers to understand its cause: gravitational pulls and tugs from the sun and moon, against an earth that is not a perfect sphere--which cause the earth’s axis to wobble slightly. But Copernicus did not know this. Nor did Ptolemy in AD 139 or the Arab astronomer al-Battani in 882, whose calculations Copernicus trusted and used to compare his own observations for the tropical year: We too made observations of the autumn equinox at Frauenburg in
took his authority from the Council of Trent--a Counter-Reformation council called primarily to lay out reforms and policies to stem the Protestant tide--guaranteed that non-Catholics would resist the reform as an illegal and immoral edict from a papacy they did not recognize--even if the science was sound. Of course, staunchly Catholic countries immediately complied with the bull, though many complained about the edict being issued a mere eight months before the reform was to go into effect.