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Rioting Over a Calendar?
By Mary Mullett
The year was 1582, and Pope Gregory had spoken: the Julian calendar had outlived its usefulness. Come October, it would be replaced in Catholic countries by the more accurate Gregorian calendar.
The Julian calendar ran slowly, like a watch with a weak battery. True, it lost only 11 minutes and 15 seconds a year, but those minutes and seconds had been piling up for centuries.
By 1582, the vernal equinox was 10 days off from where it should have been on the calendar, and if the vernal equinox fell on the wrong date, so did Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays.To the pope and his advisers it seemed obvious a change was long overdue.
But the public wasn't so sure. People rioted in the streets, and many others were equally unhappy. It wasn't that the rioters objected to having a new calendar--they didn't much understand calendars anyway. But the pope had decreed that the day after Thursday, October 4, 1582, would become Friday, October 15, 1582! They understood that someone was stealing 10 days from their lives.
Nevertheless, the change was made--on schedule in a few countries, later in most--and eventually accepted.
Protestant England and her colonies clung to the creaky Julian calendar for another 170 years. By the time Parliament adopted the new calendar, the old one was 11 days behind. The day after Wednesday, September 2, 1752, became Thursday, September 14, 1752, in England and America.
Once again, angry mobs took to the streets. "Give us back our 11 days!" they demanded. If 11 days were being taken from them, they at least wanted wages for the lost days. But employers refused to pay them for days they hadn't worked.
Actually, by historical standards the Julian calendar had been a very good one. The first calendars were lunar--based on phases of the moon and were not very accurate. A major difficulty with calendars in general is the length of the seasonal year, an awkward 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and approximately 45 seconds. Weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds--none of these divides evenly into a year. Neither does the lunar month, an equally awkward 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.9 seconds.
An Egyptian scientist and physician named Thoth created the precursor to the Julian calendar in 4236 B.C. Ancient Egyptians lived and grew their crops on a narrow strip of fertile land along the Nile River, surrounded by desert. The Nile flooded about the same date every summer, bringing life-giving silt to the area as well as water. With a calendar, it was possible to predict when the floods would come--and move people and belongings to safety. Thoth's calendar had twelve 30-day months, plus five extra days at the end of the year, six in leap years. The new year began on our September 23. Flood waters were receding then, and it was time to plant seeds in the wet ground.
In 47 B.C. the Roman conqueror Julius Caesar came to Egypt and discovered Thoth's calendar. Its accuracy impressed him. Rome's old lunar calendar was off 80 days from the seasonal year by then. Caesar took the Egyptian calendar back to Rome and modified it, creating the original Julian calendar.
The Roman lunar calendar began with March, so Caesar started making his changes there. He gave the first 11 months 31 or 30 days, in an alternating pattern, but by the time he got to February, the last month, he was down to 29 days, or 30 in leap years. He began the Julian calendar year in January. So February wasn't the last month any more, but it remained the shortest. Later, February was shortened by another day so that August, named for the emperor Caesar Augustus, could be made as long as July which had been named for Julius Caesar.
The original Julian calendar numbered years from the founding of Rome. Our practice of numbering from the birth of Christ was started in the sixth century A.D. by a monk called Dionysius Exiguus, or Dennis the Short. Unfortunately no one understood zeroes in the sixth century. Instead of beginning with the year zero, Dennis began with the year one--throwing each century off one year forever after. Because of his error, the 21st century will begin, not in the year 2000, but in 2001.
Dennis apparently made another error too. Most experts now believe Christ was born around four B.C., instead of one A.D.
The Julian calendar made every fourth year a leap year--no exceptions. The more accurate Gregorian calendar handles century years differently. All century years are divisible by four, but only those divisible by 400 are leap years.
The Gregorian calendar is better--not perfect. It runs fast by about 26 seconds relative to a seasonal year. In the year 4909, the Gregorian calendar will be one day ahead of the seasonal year and will need adustment. Perhaps the day after October 4, 4909, will become . . . October 4, 4909?
Study: Waltzing helps mend hearts
By MARILYNN MARCHIONE
AP Medical Writer
CHICAGO (AP) -- Italian researchers have come up with a novel way for cardiac rehabilitation patients to exercise their damaged hearts without having to squeeze into spandex or gyrate in a gym: waltzing.
The dance proved to be just as effective as bicycle and treadmill training for improving exercise capacity in a study of 110 heart failure patients. Dancers also reported slightly more improvement in sleep, mood, and the ability to do hobbies, do housework and have sex than the others.
"This may be a more effective way of getting people to exercise, and may be more fun than running on a treadmill," said Dr. Robert Bonow, cardiology chief at Northwestern University School of Medicine. "Maybe we should try that here. I'm not sure we can get Americans to waltz, but they can certainly dance."
Exercise is crucial after people suffer heart problems, but getting people to stick with it is tough. As many as 70 percent drop out of traditional programs, said Dr. Romualdo Belardinelli, director of cardiac rehabilitation at Lancisi Heart Institute in Ancona, Italy.
"We have to find something that may capture the patients' interest," he said Sunday at an American Heart Association meeting in Chicago where he presented results of his study.
They chose waltzing because it is "internationally known" and is quite aerobic, as the study ultimately verified, he said.
The same researchers previously showed that waltzing could help heart attack sufferers regain strength. The new study involved 89 men and 11 women, average age 59, with heart failure. The condition occurs when weakened hearts can no longer pump blood effectively, making simple activities like climbing stairs and taking the dog for a walk tough to do, let alone enjoy.
Researchers assigned 44 patients to a supervised exercise training program of cycling and treadmill work three times a week for eight weeks. Another group of 44 took dance classes in the hospital gym, alternating between slow and fast waltzes for 21 minutes, three times a week for eight weeks. A third group of 22 patients had no exercise.
Heart rates were checked during both activities, more extensive exercise tests were done at the start and end of the study, and artery imaging exams were performed.
Cardiopulmonary fitness increased at similar rates among those who danced or exercised and did not change in those who did neither.
Oxygen uptake increased 16 percent among exercisers and 18 percent among dancers. The anaerobic threshold - the point where muscles fatigue - rose 20 percent among exercisers and 21 percent among dancers. Other measures, including a general index of fitness, were comparable.
Imaging showed that dancers' arteries were more able to dilate and expand in response to exercise than non-exercisers.
Part of the benefit may be that dancers had a partner and social companion rather than cycling or walking on a treadmill alone, doctors said.
"This type of program is more effective," Belardinelli said, "because it is fun."