Leap year 2016: make the most of your extra day


What would you do if you had an extra day? Well, you better have an answer ready, because today you really will have an extra day!

2016 is very special and not just because it’s 11111100000 in binary. Today’s Doodle celebrates a rare day indeed: Leap Day!


Here’s a day that rolls around once every four years, trying not to make a pest out of itself, like those other 365 days that show up every year. Since it takes 365 days and 6 hours for the earth to revolve around the sun, the 6 hours added up over four years make a leap day. The 29th of February only happens every four years. This is to keep our calendar in sync with the rotation of the Earth around the sun. Without Leap Day, we’d be out of sync by about six hours per year.

We live by and learn and teach others that there are exactly 365 days in a year. In reality, the earth turns approximately 365 and a quarter times (six extra hours) on its axis by the time it has completed a full year’s orbit around the sun, which means that every so often the calendar has to catch up.  Since those six extra hours add up to 24 hours over the course of four years (4 × 6 = 24), our calendar includes a leap year every fourth year.  (It’s similar to receiving a free ice cream cone after getting your frequent buyers card stamped the fourth time.)  That is the reason the month of February has 29 days instead of 28 for a total of 366 days in the year.

This year of 2016 is a leap year, but why is the word “leap” used?  Believe it or not, it has to do with patterns. (All math is based on patterns!)  Typically, a calendar date that is on, say, a Monday one year will fall on a Tuesday the next year; then Wednesday the year after that, and so on. However every fourth year, thanks to the extra day in February, we “leap” over Thursday and that same calendar date lands on a Friday instead.  (For example, in 2012, Christmas was on a Friday, but because 2016 is a leap year, this year, Christmas will be on Sunday, not Saturday.)

Believe it or not, there is a mathematical formula for figuring out leap years. (Don’t you love it?) It goes like this: A leap year is any year whose date is exactly divisible by four except for those years that are divisible by 100, not 400. (No, I didn’t make this up!) So years that are evenly divided by 100 are not leap years; however, if the years are also evenly divisible by 400, they are leap years. BUT this is only a temporary fix! This will work for about 3,300 years, at which point we will be a day off – again!

For example, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. In the same way, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2900, and 3000 will not be leap years, but 2400 and 2800 will be. Therefore, in a period of two thousand years, we will have 485 leap years. By this rule, the average number of days per year will be 365 + 1/4 − 1/100 + 1/400 = 365.2425, which is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds.

So why does this formula have to be so difficult? Because, in reality, the exact number of days in a solar year is slightly less than 365.25 (365.242374, to be exact), so the algorithm is designed so that a leap year is omitted every so often to account for underestimating the length of the earth’s orbit.

Unfortunately, there’s an exception to the “divide by 4” rule.  (You knew there would be).  For some time, astronomers have been able to more precisely estimate the earth’s orbit. In reality, that number is roughly 365.2422 days, or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, just a smidgen under the 365.25 days previously discussed.  By comparing the numbers, we see that the number above is off by 26 seconds. To make up for this, a rule states there can only be 97 leap years over the span of 400 years, not 100 as you may think. [Source: U.S. Navy Astronomical Center]

One way to remember the rule is this:  Years that occur at the turn of centuries such as 1900 and 2000 must be evenly divisible by 400. This is why 1900 wasn’t a leap year but the year 2000 was.

Here is something fascinating for those whose birthday falls on February 29th. Over the course of their lives, these people will enjoy 75% fewer birthdays than the rest of us. I wonder if that also means they are 75% younger, too? Happy Birthday to any Leaplings out there! Enjoy your day!

So, enjoy the extra day the Earth and sun has given you!

But mostly, use this day to take a step back and get yourself and your business organised. Some people see it as an extra day they have to get to the office. Myself will see it as an extra day to make sure that I am on track to following my dreams and reaching my goals. 🙂




5 thoughts on “Leap year 2016: make the most of your extra day

  1. Nice informative post…. I would point out, we humans are the only part of the universe that cares about this at all… Nothing else existent, that we know of, even thinks about time, or what day it is; they are all the same, a ongoing, ever-changing progression of Now into Eternity… and, the divisions of time are only for our convenience… Everything else just exists, and knows what time it is, which is Now…

    gigoid, the dubious

    Liked by 1 person

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