Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

Another Year of Life, and Good Health to You!

As on old Celestial Navigator, living in the Arizona Desert, I watched the Sunrise. I remember that if I carefully timed the first appearance of the upper Limb of the emerging Ball over my Mesa top to the SE, I could calculate my Longitude- this 3rd day of January, the day of the most southerly appearance of the rising Sun. It had to be the first glistening ray, in the clear dustless sky, since five seconds later the intense radiation would burn a hole in my Retina!
I jotted down the time for that New Year, and calculated that indeed I had the correct number of degrees, minutes, and seconds of arc from that slotted bronze bar in London (Greenwich), that I had straddled so many years ago. My faith was shaken the following year, however, when the first rays, on the most southerly appearance of the Sun, on the top of the same Mesa, occurred on the 5th of January.
I thought about the ancient Shaman, who made his living determining when a New Year commenced. If he were wrong, the crops would be planted incorrectly, and the farmers would lose faith in him- since they would notice the reduced yield. When did the year commence?
Nowadays our Shaman scientists inform us that the Winter Solstice occurs on the 21st or 22nd of December, and that this is the shortest day. But as I found in Arizona, this was not correct, since the sun moved furthest south in early January, from the vantage of my Mesa Top. I shrugged this off as due to the wobble of the Earth, and I ceased the measurements after three years; I never found that the shortest day (or at least the day of the furthest-south position of the Sun) repeated itself- Atmospherics, maybe.
Down there among the Mayas, the Shaman could get out of this trap by aligning a flat vertical stone with the farthest-south rays to predict where they would occur the following year- saving his eye and his Reputation. He didn’t concern himself with diffraction, water vapor, elevation of the Mesa top, or Polar Wandering.
What then is Natural about the 1st of January? Are we again at the mercy of arbitrary proclamations of the Church? After all, the French took issue with all this, and didn’t even use the 360 degree circle or globe- since they berated the English Greenwich idea anyway.
Surely, we’re above all this- now that Science is measuring all the way down to the microsecond. They even allow for the Leap Second (which is applied this coming year), where a second is added to the time of annual rotation of the Earth each year and a half. Not only that, but now the long-term increase in the Length of Day (LOD) is found to be some 24 microseconds per year, because of the Moon’s pulling on the Equatorial Bulge (to slow it).

Possibly some modern Joshua can command the Sun to stand still, so that we can wait for the Day to catch up with us!