It’s been 2069 years since the first leap day

The Daily Edition
The Medium Blog
Published in
4 min readFeb 29, 2024

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The legendary magazine editor Tina Brown, the former editor in chief of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, liked to say that any successful piece of writing needs to include three interesting facts you could talk about at a party.

By that standard, you could say Robert Roy Britt’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” is an overachiever. Although I’ve personally seen 14 leap years come and go in my lifetime, I had no idea until I read Britt’s deep dive into leap day and timekeeping that Julius Caesar invented leap days. Or that in the early 1800s, it could be noon in New York City while it was 11:55 a.m. in Philadelphia. Or that globally, we only know exactly what time is, or was, in retrospect.

But wait, there’s more. Did you know that in 1883, there were 144 local time zones across the United States? That the development of the first coordinated nationwide time system was led by railroad companies? That the first U.S. atomic clock, which came online in 1960, was determined to be accurate to within 1 second over 3,000 years? That the most current version stays that accurate for 6 million years? That’s seven interesting facts, and we’re only getting started.

If that kind of strange but intriguing knowledge is your thing, check out Britt’s new Medium publication Aha!, where you’ll find answers to such burning questions as “Could Your Fingernails Become Sharp Enough to Cut Steel?”, “What Are the World’s Deadliest Animals, Really?”, and “Why Do Paper Cuts Hurt So Much?”

You’re going to be a hit at your next party.

What else we’re reading

  • When I read the title of Avi Loeb’s “The Ethics of Astrobiology,” my first thought was “Okay, what does that even mean?” My second thought was “I’m intrigued!” It turns out Loeb’s story raises questions I didn’t even realize were questions: Should humans be allowed to plant seeds and raise animals on fertile extraterrestrial territories? Would it be morally acceptable for us to eat extraterrestrial life? Should we show special respect to artificial intelligence systems with more than a quadrillion connections, exceeding the number of synapses in the human brain? The never dull Loeb’s point of view on that last issue: “Unplugging from the electric outlet an AI system which exceeds the complexity of the human brain is similar to killing a person.” Whoa. I’m still thinking about that one.
  • Faith and gay marriage are often seen as at odds, but in “Jesus Attended My Gay Wedding,” the poet and editor Jonny Masters gives the lie to that stereotype. A moving portrait of Masters’ own nuptials, the piece reflects how he and his husband deftly balanced their Christianity with their homosexuality in their celebration. “We wanted the wedding service to achieve two things,” Masters writes. “1) We wanted our friends and family who do not identify as Christians to feel welcomed and included, and to encounter what we would call God’s presence. 2) We wanted our Christian friends and family to worship God, and see that same-sex relationships are as holy as heterosexual relationships.” As you’ll see from the story, they beautifully accomplished both.

From the archives

If you like a good business yarn, or just a good yarn, period, “Unlucky Charms: The Rise and Fall of Billion-Dollar Jewelry Empire Alex and Ani,” by Aaron Gell (from 2020), is a banger. By turns involving astrology, private equity, and a $1.1 billion gender discrimination lawsuit, all prompted by a simple expanding bracelet, it’s the kind of story that if it were pitched to Hollywood as a movie would be dismissed as too crazy to believe. That said, if someone were to make a film based on the piece, this quote would be perfect for the trailer: “How could an entrepreneur who spent 15 years building an empire that was the envy of the retail fashion industry allow it to unravel so spectacularly?Dun dun duuuun!

Your daily dose of practical wisdom

“It is at [the] nexus of identity and purpose that creativity and innovation reside, because when we learn to collaborate with others who possess knowledge, skills and perspectives that we don’t, new possibilities emerge to achieve greater things.”

Greg Satell, “Never Underestimate the Power of Identity”

Written by Jon Gluck
Edited and produced by
Harris Sockel, Scott Lamb, Carly Rose Gillis

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