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Happy Leap Day? Empty Happy Leap Day?

Post by TomW on Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:54 pm

Leap Year 2012: From ‘leapers’ to leap-day exceptions, seven things to know
People born on February 29 are known as “leapers.” They aren’t amused that non-leapers find their birthday mildly hilarious

Leapers face a range of troubles over their birthdays, from computer snafus to police suspicion during traffic stops to hearing about delivery room negotiations to alter their birth certificate to a day earlier or a day later.

“I’ve had people tell me to my face, ’Who cares?”’ said Raenell Dawn, who with Peter Brouwer in 1997 created The Honor Society for Leap Year Day Babies. The online club for people born on February 29 boasts more than 9,000 members.

“I’ll tell you who cares. One in 1,461 of us do,” Ms. Dawn said, citing the chance to be born on Leap Day. There are just over 200,000 leapers in the United States and just under 5 million worldwide, she said.

According to Biography.com, famous leapers include sax player Jimmy Dorsey, singer Dinah Shore, rapper Ja Rule and actor Antonio Sabato Jr.

February 29 confuses computers, Google

It’s not recognized by some computer services and software programs that power everything from banking to life insurance, Mr. Brouwer said.

“Leap year deniers claim February 29 is an invalid date,” said Mr. Brouwer, who said he was told by Crown Life Insurance Co. that March 1 had to be listed on his policy because the company’s computer system balked at his February 29 birthday.

Leap Day has tripped up Google, whose Blogger program will not allow existing users born on February 29 to update their profiles, an annoyance to leapers who use social media. A Google spokesman said the company plans to fix the glitch.

Microsoft’s Excel, the world’s most popular spreadsheet, doesn’t realize that 1900 was not a leap year (more on why it wasn’t in a moment) and as a result many other companies’ programs, in order to be compatible, have had to put the error in their code. Microsoft has no plans to correct the mistake because “fixing it now would cause greater impact to customers,” a company spokeswoman said.

Are you working for free today?

Leapers point out that some salaried employees are working for free this February 29 since paychecks are based on a 365-day year. But, as Slate points out, leap years don’t have much of an impact on the economy:

“One extra day makes the year 0.27% longer theoretically allowing for 0.27% more economic activity to take place. So it’s true that all things considered you might get a smallish boost to aggregate output and income totals. But in terms of things people care about like unemployment only increasing the density of economic activities provides a boost. Taking another full 24 hours to do another 24 hours worth of work doesn’t change anything. That said, on shorter time frames it does make a difference. Anyone who’s subjected to monthly performance metrics of any kind will do a bit better than he would in a normal February. This is mitigated by the fact that even with Leap Day added, February is still a freakishly short month, so it’s not like anyone is going to use their extra day to break sales records.”

Mandatory explanation of why the leap year exists in the first place

Leap year exists because a year — the time it takes the earth to travel around the sun — isn’t perfectly 365 days. It’s slightly longer, thus the extra day every four years, with some exceptions. These mathematical gymnastics have been executed since about 44 B.C., when Julius Caesar instituted the leap year system to correct a defect in the calendar that would otherwise put the seasons out of sync.

Exceptions to the leap year rule: (most) years ending in double zeroes

Leap years occur every four years, except those ending in double zeros, such as 1900 and 2100, said Geoff Chester, a spokesman for the United States Naval Observatory. To confuse matters, there is an exception to that exception: Years ending in double zeros that can be evenly divided by 400, such as 1600 and 2000, are in fact leap years. Because there is no leap year in 2100, anyone born this February 29 who lives a long life will have no birthday from 2096 to 2104.

Leap years aren’t the only chronological leaping our timepieces perform

There’s also a leap second — the extra moment added to atomic clocks to keep them in sync with the earth’s rotation, which is slowed by the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon. It’s been added 24 times since 1972, the year the International Telecommunication Union defined Coordinated Universal Time. Last month, a timekeepers’ meeting failed to agree on whether or not to scrap the leap second, which has come under criticism because every time a second is added, the world’s computers need to be manually adjusted, a costly practice that also boosts the risk of error. Defenders of the leap second say without it, hi-tech clocks would race ahead of solar time, amounting to a discrepancy of about 15 seconds every 100 years.

February 29, 2012 is at least one man’s last day on earth

Death row inmate Robert Henry Moormann, 63, is scheduled to be executed on Leap Day in Florence, Arizona for beating, stabbing and strangling his adoptive mother and dismembering her body during a “compassionate furlough” from prison to visit her in 1984.

With files from Reuters and Agence France-Presse
National Post Staff Feb 29, 2012 – 10:03 AM ET | Last Updated: Feb 29, 2012 10:30 AM ET

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