Happy New Orbit!

Two years ago I wrote a blog post in which I explained why celebrating the end of one and the start of another earth orbit around the sun on the 31 December/1 January was actually totally arbitrary and had no real basis in calendrics or astronomy. I also explained that to merely justify it as traditional is inadequate because the arbitrary day chosen to celebrate has changed several times over the last two millennia. Two millennia is of course a mere fleabite in time compared to the roughly four and a half billion years that the solar system has existed (approx. 0.5×10-6 %). I also pointed out that this New Year’s celebration is only on the Gregorian calendar, and the many other calendars in use in the world celebrate this calendrical renewal on other diverse dates.

I suggested that for those of us in the Northern hemisphere the Winter Solstice would make for a much more rational date to celebrate New Year’s, as it marks the end of our solar journey into the dark, long nights and short days, and the beginning of our solar journey back into the light, long days and short nights. Therefore, as today is Winter Solstice I wish all of my readers Happy New Orbit and thank all of you for having accompanied my throughout the one that ends today.

Stonehenge Winter

The last 365 days were for those of us who live in the so-called western world, to say the least, a fairly bizarre one with the first year of the reign of the Shitgibbon in the White House and the decision on racist and xenophobic grounds by a substantial minority of the population of the UK to commit economic, social and political suicide by leaving the EU. One can only hope that the next cycle of our solar journal proves to be an improvement; I personally have serious doubts.

Those new to this apology for an informative blog might be slightly puzzled by next weeks Christmas Trilogy. Three of my favourite historical figures have their birthdays respectively on 25, 26 and 27 December: Isaac Newton 25 December 1642, Charles Babbage 26 December 1791 and Johannes Kepler 1571. This is of course not strictly accurate as Newton and Kepler are both Julian calendar or old style dates and Babbage is Gregorian calendar or new style. However, in this case, here at Renaissance Mathematicus command centre we ignore such quibbles and honour each gentleman with a blog post on his nominal birthday creating the Renaissance Mathematicus Christmas Trilogy.

So if you need a quiet #histSTM reflective moment over the holidays then you are more than welcome to come here and read your fill.


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8 responses to “Happy New Orbit!

  1. laurel2000

    Happy New Orbit to you too! The Julian Calendar actually did intend the New Year to coincide with the Winter Solstice (Dec. 25 on that calendar) but for both the purposes of starting the New Year at the beginning of a new month and to give people another week to party, they placed it on January 1. With the change to the Gregorian calendar, the interval between the Solstice and the New Year increased to 11 days. I have always viewed the Solstice as the “real” New Year, the end of the waning old year and beginning of the new, waxing new year, much like the New Moon marks the end of one lunation and the beginning of the next.

  2. I always celebrate the solstice as the beginning of a new year and all the more so as I age and find the lengthening nights of autumn harder to bear. I didn’t paint myself blue or write a hymn to Sol Invictus this morning, but I did think, “Made it again!” The sentiment got reinforced by a Christmas card I got from my nephew and his wife yesterday that quoted the line “If Winter comes, can Spring far behind,” which I appreciated a lot though they somehow attributed it to Shakespeare. Your post makes me associate the line with you, even though a Thony isn’t a Percy and you don’t look much like a pale young poet. Nevertheless, as a somewhat kindred spirit, i.e., another irascible depressive, I can certainly appreciate your hopes that things will turn up, both for us personally and for a stricken world after a most immemorial year for everybody.

    Seems appropriate to quote the last part of Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind. I hadn’t reread it in decades and had forgotten how powerful it is.

    Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
    What if my leaves are falling like its own!
    The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

    Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
    Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
    My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

    Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
    Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
    And, by the incantation of this verse,

    Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
    Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
    Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

    The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
    If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

  3. Maybe the people in the southern hemisphere have another date they prefer.

  4. Pingback: On this day… | The Renaissance Mathematicus

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