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Leap Year

Tricky Math, and History, Lead to Leap Year

There will never be another day like today — at least not until 2016. Today's date (Feb. 29) pops up on the calendar only on leap years, once almost every four years.It has taken millennia for our calendar, called the Gregorian calendar after the pope who modified it in 1582, to evolve to include this tweak — 97 leap years every 400 years. There are other alternatives, according to Yury Grabovsky, an associate professor in the department of mathematics at Temple University, who has studied the history and mathematics of the Gregorian calendar.Leap year addresses a discrepancy between our 365-day calendar and the time it takes the Earth to circle the sun . The discrepancy: It takes 365.24219878 days for the planet to complete one trip, so over time, our calendar and the astronomical one fall out of step.The oldest Babylonian calendar consisted of 12 months, based on the cycles of the moon. At 354 days per year, it fell a fair number short of the astronomical year. The ancient Egyptians ...

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