# 29 and Leap Years - Numberphile | Summary and Q&A

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February 28, 2012
by
Numberphile
29 and Leap Years - Numberphile

## TL;DR

Our calendar and time measurement systems are a complicated mismatch of different cycles and lengths, requiring adjustments like leap years and leap seconds to make them align with physical events.

## Key Insights

• 🏍️ Our calendar and time measurement systems are a complex combination of different cycles and lengths.
• 🥳 Leap years are necessary to account for the extra 1/4 day in a year due to the Earth's revolution around the Sun.
• 📅 Additional corrections, such as skipping leap years every 100 years (unless divisible by 400), are required to keep our calendar in sync with physical events.
• 🥳 Julian dates provide a simplified way for astronomers to measure the passage of time, disregarding months and days and focusing solely on the number of days.

## Transcript

Our calendar is just a mess. It's a very complicated mismatch of different cycles and different lengths of time. And every once in a while, we have to make an adjustment to those lengths of time to make things match. And one way we do that is every once in a while adding an extra day to our calendar. And that extra day is February 29. When we have ... Read More

## Questions & Answers

### Q: Why do we have leap years?

We have leap years to account for the extra 1/4 day it takes for the Earth to complete a revolution around the Sun every year. By adding an extra day (February 29) every four years, we align our calendar with this additional time.

### Q: Do all years divisible by 4 have a leap year?

No, not all years divisible by 4 have a leap year. If a year is also divisible by 100 but not by 400, it is not considered a leap year. This rule accounts for the slight inaccuracy in the length of a year.

### Q: Why do we need leap seconds?

Leap seconds are necessary to adjust our clocks for the variable rotation of the Earth. These additional seconds help keep our time measurement systems aligned with the Earth's rotation, ensuring a day lasts approximately 24 hours.

### Q: How do astronomers calculate the passage of time between two dates?

Astronomers use Julian dates, which count the number of days since a specific date in history. By using a single number, they can simplify calculations involving months, days, and leap years, making it easier to calculate the passage of time accurately.

## Summary & Key Takeaways

• Our calendar consists of different cycles and lengths, resulting in the need for adjustments like leap years to keep it in sync with actual events.

• The Earth takes approximately 365 and 1/4 days to complete a revolution around the Sun, leading to the need for an extra day every four years.

• However, the actual length of a year is approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds, requiring additional corrections every 100 and 400 years.

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