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Long-Lasting Milk:

Spotted in my refrigerator a couple of days ago -- a gallon of fresh milk (not the Parmalat boxes) with the note "Use by Feb 29." Now that's advanced food preservation technology.

Steve:
On a related note, I talked to a couple lawyer colleagues the other day who had no idea when leap years roll around. When I said, somewhat shocked, that leap years are multiples of 4 (let's set aside for the time being the tricky '00 exceptions!), they responded, in a mocking sort of tone, "Oh, as if everybody knows that!"

I swear I thought everybody did know that. I certainly thought that most educated people, if not people in general, would know that 2007 isn't a leap year and 2008 is. But my colleagues seem to have lived their lives with the understanding that leap years just sort of "happen" periodically and they've never given any thought to whether there might be a pattern. Am I nuts to think of this as common knowledge?
2.21.2007 3:42pm
Crunchy Frog:
Did you glow in the dark from drinking it?
2.21.2007 3:47pm
Houston Lawyer:
Steve, you are not nuts. I can remember back in grade school being stumped by the math question "how many days are there in 5 years?" Well, it depends on which years you are taling about. You could have one or two leap years in that time period. My third-grader knows about leap years and he goes to public school.
2.21.2007 3:56pm
Justin (mail):
I'm curious as to the inference intended by the statement "and he goes to public school" is. Other than in urban areas where the public schools are absolutely terrible, and presumably in certain states like Florida where all but a handful of schools are terrible, I didn't think there was such a big difference between (decent) public and private schools, particularly between public and religious schools. Is my view simply skewed by being raised in the NY suburbs, or is something else going on?

Sorry for being completely off topic. I'm genuinely curious.
2.21.2007 4:01pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
My first wife's birthday was February 28, which brought the ad nauseum comment "You missed being a leap baby by just one day." Her reply, "No, I missed it by 730 days." I don't recall the initial commenter ever understanding the reply.
2.21.2007 4:17pm
rarango (mail):
OT reply to Justin: Check this website: http://www.psk12.com/rating/index.php
2.21.2007 4:41pm
Incredulous:
When I was in law school a few years ago, the Professor made a reference to Winston Churchill. A young woman next to me asked, "Who's Winston Churchill?"
2.21.2007 4:43pm
Justin (mail):
Another OT post (I'm sort of treating this like an open thread): EV, what do you make of the cyberbullying laws that seem to be starting to make its headway? Both legal and normative analysis would be interesting. Seems right up your alley, too.
2.21.2007 4:44pm
Houston Lawyer:
Justin, that was mostly a snark, since the public school he attends is quite good.

Back on topic, I once had a document file-stamped by the Texas Secretary of State as received on February 30.
2.21.2007 5:04pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Justin: E-mail me the URLs for the text of some of those laws and I'll have a look. (In general, such tips / requests usually work best when e-mailed; sometimes I check comments and sometimes I don't.)
2.21.2007 5:10pm
Nathan Richardson (mail):
To Houston Lawyer:

"You could have one or two leap years in that time period. [5 years]"

Or zero.
2.21.2007 5:10pm
Tom F:
How many days in 5 years?
Answer: 365.25*5

Just because the "government" says that this year or that has an extra day, doesn't make it so. The earth rotates about 365.25 times around its own axis for every one time it rotates around the sun. It is not as though the earth spins faster during leap years, or slows its rotation around the sun.
2.21.2007 5:32pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
I've got a motion in the U.S. district court of the western district of texas, del rio division, file stamped "filed" on Feb. 29, 2006.
2.21.2007 5:35pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Unfortunately, the really bad urban school districts cover a large portion of the children in the country. NYC and LA Unified between them have approximately 3 1/2% of the national public school population.

It's also bad districts that make the news for doing truly bizarre things. Oakland (CA) has been covered in radio, TV, and newspapers recently for deciding that kids with head lice will no longer be sent home from school. Nobody writes stories about the thousands of school districts where that idea would have been laughed out of the room.

Nick
2.21.2007 5:35pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
"Well, it depends on which years you are taling about. You could have one or two leap years in that time period."

Extra credit if you consider the case of 1582 in most Catholic countries, 1752 in the British Empire, 1918 in the USSR, and so on.

Super-duper extra credit if you mention the difference between the length of the tropical year and the sidereal year.
2.21.2007 5:36pm
Ken Kukec (mail):
I thought the easiest way to remember leap years was that they are the same years that the Olympics (now just the Summer Olympics) and the U.S. presidential elections occur. Maybe some folks have mistaken this for a leap year because it feels like a presidential election year already.
2.21.2007 5:55pm
KeithK (mail):
Steve, there are some people who are so instinctively afraid of math that they either never learn this type of thing or forget it as soon as it's no longer a topic in grade school (or of grade school conversation). Not to say that dividing by 4 is in any way deep math, but it seems "mathy" enough to these folks that the instinct kicks in.

Not to say that it's not mind boggling to me...
2.21.2007 5:59pm
RV:
Not to say that dividing by 4 is in any way deep math, but it seems "mathy" enough to these folks that the instinct kicks in.

But dividing by 4 is so easy, you only have to look at the last two digits, everyone knows that. And half the numbers are odd and hence clearly not divisible by 4. Oh, wait, people are stupid...

I've had the date stamp problem, too, but that is just people forgetting to adjust their stamp properly. I've had plenty of September 31sts and the like.
2.21.2007 6:26pm
Waldensian (mail):
Back in high school, a friend of mine had a fake ID with an impossible birthdate. Nobody ever noticed.
2.21.2007 6:36pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
a gallon of fresh milk . . . with the note "Use by Feb 29." Now that's advanced food preservation technology.

Right. As if we should take an 8-year-old's word for it.
2.21.2007 6:40pm
Ted Frank (www):
I get Arvin's joke because I was about to make the same one.
2.21.2007 6:49pm
Hattio (mail):
Ken Kukec,
Does that mean that 00 was not a legal presidential election.

I am often shocked by the lack of general knowledge. In law school one of my friends asked me if I believed the "myth" that dark clothes are warmer in sunlight than white clothes. I explained about absorbing more light, rather than reflecting, and used the Roy G Biv mnemonic. He had no clue what I was talking about.
2.21.2007 7:03pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Tom F.

What do you mean by "year?" There are many different kinds of "years." There is the calendar year, which is the time between two dates with the same name on the calendar. The Gregorian calendar tries to keep the vernal equinox on or close to March 21. So the average length of vernal equinox year is 365.2425 days. On the other hand the Julian year is defined as exactly 365.25 days. But the mean sidereal year, which is the time for the earth to make one revolution around the sun in a fixed frame of reference, is 365.256363051 days. But the tropical year, which is shorter than the sidereal year is defined using a different frame of reference. It uses a reference frame that consists of the intersection of ecliptic with plane of the equator. Unfortunately the length of the tropical year depends on the starting point because of the precession of the equinoxes. You also need to define what you mean by a "day." You have a solar day, which is a single rotation of earth with respect to the sun, while a sidereal day is a single rotation with respect to fixed stars. For practical purposes, use the SI day which is defined from caesium atom and is 86,000 seconds.

So the government really does define the number of days in the year because we let the government define standards.
2.21.2007 7:19pm
Tom F:
Zarkov

The key word in my post was "about".
2.21.2007 7:35pm
Jerry Mimsy (www):
Justin, anecdotally only, in the rural area I grew up in (a town of less than a thousand) my experience going from 8th grade in a Catholic school to a public high school is that while the public school was good, the Catholic school was much better, at least in the sense of how much we learned and were challenged to learn. I remember being astonished at how easy high school was compared to the earlier grades.
2.21.2007 7:36pm
Steve:
Does that mean that 00 was not a legal presidential election.

Of course it wasn't. Be that as it may, 2000 was a leap year.
2.21.2007 7:37pm
Fub:
Houston Lawyer wrote:
Back on topic, I once had a document file-stamped by the Texas Secretary of State as received on February 30.
Isn't everything in Texas supposed to be bigger? So why not February too?
2.21.2007 7:52pm
Ken Kukec (mail):
Hattio:


Does that mean that 00 was not a legal presidential election[?]


Guess that depends upon whose Gore got oxed in '00.
2.21.2007 8:19pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
I am often shocked by the lack of general knowledge. In law school one of my friends asked me if I believed the "myth" that dark clothes are warmer in sunlight than white clothes. I explained about absorbing more light, rather than reflecting, and used the Roy G Biv mnemonic. He had no clue what I was talking about.

Two words: heavy boots.
2.21.2007 8:42pm
Ignorance is Bliss:

The earth rotates about 365.25 times around its own axis for every one time it rotates around the sun.


Actually, it rotates about 366.25 times around it's axis for every one time it rotates around the sun. The orbit around the sun causes there to be one less day than rotations.
2.21.2007 8:44pm
DaveN (mail):
Actually, 2000 was a leap year but most years ending in 00 are not (1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, etc.).

The general rule for leap years is that a leap year is any year evenly divisible 4 except for 00 years, unless that 00 year is also evenly divisible by 400.

This calculation takes into account the fact that while it takes approximately 365.25 days for the Earth to rotate round the sun, that is not exact--and the exception and the exception to the exception take care of that.

Unfortunately, I won't be around in 2100 to see the skipped Leap Day.
2.21.2007 8:52pm
English teacher:
When we covered leap years in grade school, I was the only one who knew that 1900 had not been one. That's because my aunt, born in 1896, had told us many times about how exciting it was to have her first birthday when she was eight years old.
2.21.2007 9:26pm
SlimAndSlam:
Arvin and Ted:

C'mon, the Blogfather has celebrated nine birthdays so far. Give him some credit.
2.21.2007 9:53pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Hattio: Your amazement about the color of clothing may have resulted from incomplete information.

Studies have found that while white clothing does reflect light (and heat) away from the wearer, the result is not any different from the dark clothes worn by--for instance--some Arab women.

Instead of reflectance, they benefit from convection. Because heat rises, there is a greater flow of air from the ground upward, thus providing cooling.

One study I saw was done in N. Africa where the women wear white and the men dark colors. Measurements of skin temperature, in full sunlight, were all but identical.
2.21.2007 10:22pm
Connie (mail):
And I was just explaining to my 12 year old yesterday about the error in the original Lotus 1-2-3 software that thought 1900 WAS a leap year . . . then subsequent spreadsheet versions had an option to let you perpetuate the error, or not.
2.21.2007 10:31pm
Anon. E. Mouse (mail):
John Burgess:

That doesn't prove a whole lot.
(1) mean core body temperature for men and women is about the same.
(2) men generally burn more calories per minute than women for a variety of reasons, one being that body mass is higher => men must dump more heat to maintain identical temperature
(3) mass goes up as a cube, where surface area goes up as a square. All things being equal, men's skin temperature would have to be higher to maintain the same core temperature. (dumping more heat through each square inch of skin => increased skin temp).
(4) but people sweat and aren't homogenous on the inside => skin temps vary widely in different locations.
(5) etc.

In any case, skin temp. measurements will be tricky. Now, put two identical water balloons full of 10C water, clothe one in dark cotton, the other in identical but white cotton, and so on, and you might have an experiment there.

I don't quite understand where you are going with the convection thought -- are you suggesting that the higher temp. of black cloth in full sunlight => more convection from the outer surface of the black cloth?
2.21.2007 10:42pm
DK:
John Burgess:
if the temperature of the people in the black cloth and the people in the white cloth is the same, then they would both experience an identical amount of the heat-induced convection you claim. It is not possible for one group to get more heat-driven convection than the other without a temperature differential.
2.22.2007 12:07am
ianad:

Guess that depends upon whose Gore got oxed in '00.


[arguments over clothing wavelength vs. heat convection in a post about leap year clerical errors]


I love this blog.
2.22.2007 9:58am