Saturday, September 18, 2010

FID: Man in the Moon

Man in the Moon
“In the beginning…”

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years…’ For God made two great lights—the greater light (sun) to govern the day and the lesser light (Moon) to govern the night.” Genesis 1: 14-19

The Facts:
  • If the Moon were placed on the surface of the continental United States, it would extend from San Francisco to Cleveland (2,600 miles).
  • The Moon is 250,000 miles from earth: Based on speed and time, it would take a commercial jet 625 hours or 26 days to travel to the Moon (of course it’s impossible); it took the Apollo astronauts two days.
  • Light reflected off of the Moon’s surface (from the sun) travels to Earth in 1.3 seconds.
  • We always see the same side of the Moon, because it is rotating at exactly the same rate it is moving around the earth: 29.5 earth days.
  • Each year, the Moon steals some of Earth's rotational energy, and uses it to propel itself approximately 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) higher in its orbit—away from Earth. Meanwhile, Earth's rotation rate is slowing down; our days are getting longer and longer.
  • The temperature on the Moon reaches 243° F at midday on the lunar equator. During the night, the temperature falls to -261° F.
  • On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 took Neil Armstrong to the Moon where he left his boot print in two inches of Moon dust.

I was 15 years old watching the “…small step for (“a”) man, one giant leap for mankind”. Note: You might not be aware that Neil flubbed his one liner. What he meant to say was, “…a man…”.

The Inspiring Moon

Since the dawn of time, humans have been inspired by the mysteries of the Moon, passed on from parent to child, and friend to friend through storytelling, plays and poetry (Wordsworth, Dickinson, and Shakespeare were Moon-obsessed), rhymes & lullabies, songs, novels, and movies.
  • Plays and Poems: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (more uses of the word “Moon” than any other play, and the only instance of “Moonbeams”); “The Freedom of the Moon”; “Under the Harvest Moon”; “Full Moon”; “The Moon”, and more.
  • Songs: “By The Light of the Silvery Moon”; “Moon River”; “Fly Me to the Moon”; “Bad Moon Rising”; “Moonshadow”; “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, and more.
  • Novels: “From the Earth to the Moon”; “Moon Tiger”; “New Moon”; “Moonlight Bay”; and more.
  • Movies: “Moonstruck”; “Paper Moon”; “Moonraker”; and more.
  • Nursery rhymes and children’s books: “The Cow Jumped Over the Moon”; “Goodnight Moon”; “I See the Moon”, and more.
The Cow Jumped Over the Moon
Nursery Rhymes & Lullabies

The first nursery rhymes can be traced back to the fourteenth century. During a time when people were not always allowed to express themselves freely, for fear of persecution, many nursery rhymes were encoded with secret messages. Gossiping, criticizing the government, or even talking about current events were often punishable by death. In order to communicate at will, clever rhymes were constructed and passed around to parody public figures and events. Let me give you a few examples:

Humpty Dumpty“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, All the King’s Horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Humpty was not egg that fell off a wall and smashed to bits, but the name of a huge cannon mounted atop a high wall-like church tower at St. Mary’s Church (June 15, 1648) during the English Civil War (1642-1651). During the Siege of Colchester (July 14-15, 1648), the tower was hit by enemy cannon fire and Humpty suffered a great fall. There was no fixing the cannon or the tower.

Ring Around The Rosie“Ring around the rosy, A pocketful of posies ‘Ashes, Ashes’ We all fall down!”

This little tune dates back to the great plague of London in 1665 (bubonic plague). The symptoms of bubonic plague included a rosy red ring-shaped rash, which inspired the first line. It was believed that the disease was carried by bad smells, so people frequently carried pockets full of fresh herbs, or “posies”. The “ashes, ashes” line is believed to refer to the cremation of the bodies of those who died from the plague.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary“Mary Mary quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids in a row.”

The rhyme is a reference to Bloody Mary (Queen Mary I, eldest daughter of Henry VIII and only surviving child of Catherine of Aragon—Tudor dynasty). She was given the title “Bloody Mary” for her having almost 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake. The garden mentioned in the rhyme refers to growing cemeteries, as she filled them with Protestants. Silver bells and cockle shells were instruments of torture, and the “maiden” was a device used to behead people.

I See the Moon“I see the Moon / And the Moon sees me /The Moon sees somebody / I want to see / God bless the Moon / And God bless me /And God bless the somebody / I want to see…”

My wife brought this popular nursery rhyme (or traditional folk lullaby) to my attention as one of her favorites as a young girl. It is often used as a goodnight prayer for children at the end of the day. Some books include illustrations of cherubic children gazing out the window at the Moon, enhancing the peacefulness that is projected by the verse.

Fear is as powerful a compulsion as truth and may indeed be the driving force behind this nursery rhyme that teaches an awareness of the Moon and the prayer for blessings from God. In a previous post, I make reference to the Disney movie “Monsters Inc.”. This movie is nothing more than a modern-day attempt to use a similar technique to ease the fearful minds of young children in respect to bad dreams (see my post on this blog titled – Monsters in the Closet).

In ancient times, people believed that there were many evil beings that were free to roam when the Moon was full. This nursery rhyme may have been taught to children to offer them protection and used as a ward against the evil creatures that only walked by the light of the Moon.

Shakespeare’s works even mention the many attributes and legends surrounding the heavenly bodies. In “Othello, the Moor of Venice”, Othello blames the Moon for the madness that is around him “It is the very error of the Moon; / She comes more nearer earth than she was wont, / And makes men mad.”

Goodnight Moon
Goodnight Moon – This bestselling American children’s book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd was published in 1947. It is about a child saying goodnight to everything around: “Goodnight room. Goodnight Moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the Moon…” (Notice the mentions of the Moon).

Nighttime is a scary time for young children. Fear is one of the earliest emotions. Fear of the dark and of separation from parents is a double fear that keeps many children awake. This highly acclaimed example of a bedtime story is an example of our continuing attempt to help our children deal with their fear of the dark.

The Measure of Time

The calendar has a powerful hold on our lives and our imaginations. It has a rich and fascinating history, interwoven with the lives of remarkable men. It is mankind's attempt to choreograph the eternal dance of the Sun, Moon and Earth.

My research has led me to study the Astronomical, Lunar, Egyptian, Chinese, Jewish, Islamic, Julian, and Gregorian calendars—as though I were unraveling a ball of twisted yarn. The journey has uncovered some amazing discoveries that have provided me with historical coincidences—relative to the storyline of my novel—resulting in some interesting twist that I think will add to the mystery and suspense of the story.

The Moon was the first universal measurer of time. The lives of our ancestors were governed by the cycle of night and day, the waxing and waning of the Moon and the passage of the seasons. Since people were mostly farmers, hunters, and shepherds, they learned to plant, fish, harvest, hunt, and make predictions, all by the light of the Moon.

Phases of the Moon
Gregorian Calendar (Christian Calendar)

For story purposes, let me first review our current Gregorian calendar (thanks to Aloysius Lilius, who proposed it, and Pope Gregory XIII, who adopted it). The "Christian calendar'' is the term traditionally used to designate the calendar commonly in use, although it originated in pre-Christian Rome. The Christian calendar has years of 365 or 366 days. It is divided into 12 months that have no relationship to the motion of the moon. In parallel with this system, the concept of weeks groups the days in sets of 7. Two main versions of the Christian calendar have existed in recent times: The Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar. The difference between them lies in the way they approximate the length of the tropical year and their rules for calculating Easter.

The Gregorian reform of the calendar had three parts.

First, in order to restore the Spring Equinox to March 21st, the date set by the Council of Nicaea, ten days were to be omitted from the calendar in October 1582. Thursday October 4th was followed by Friday October 15th. The cycle of days of the week was not interrupted, but October 5th to 14th did not exist in the year 1582.

Second, in order to bring the average length of the calendar year into closer agreement with the length of the tropical year, three leap years were to be omitted in every four centuries. Every centurial year which was not divisible by 400 would not be a leap year.

This was a clever ploy. The next centurial year was 1600, only eighteen years away, and it would be leap year in the new calendar as well as the old. Nobody living through Gregory's calendar reform would ever need to worry about the revised rule for leap years.

Nonetheless, it had the effect of making 400 years equivalent to 146097 days, giving an average calendar year of 365.2425 days, just 26.8 seconds longer than the tropical year. This discrepancy would amount to one day in 3200 years. No further reform of the calendar would be needed until the 49th Century A.D.!

Third, as the new leap year rule meant that the days of the week would no longer repeat every 28 years, the 532-year cycle of Victorius could no longer be used to construct tables of the dates of Easter. A new method for computing Easter had to be devised, and it required a set of arcane corrections to allow for the fact that ratio of the length of the calendar year to that of the lunar month had also changed. The dates of Easter in the new calendar would now repeat in a cycle which was 5,700,000 years long.

In summary… Gregory’s new calendar dropped 10 days to bring the calendar back into synchronization with the seasons. Although the changeover from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar was approved in 1582, it did not actually take place in Great Britain (including what is now the USA) until 1752. The exact change-over was made on September 2, 1752, with the next day being September 14, 1752.

Today, the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendar is 13 days. So, how did we go from the original 10 days, to 11, and 12, and now 13? We started by dropping 10 days, then one additional day for every year that was not a leap year: 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, etc. Therefore, in 1700 we dropped 11; in 1800, 12; in 1900, 13; and in 2100, we will drop another day, making the total difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendar, 14 days.

The Gregorian calendar has 97 leap years every 400 years: Every year divisible by 4 or 400 is a leap year. However, every year divisible by 100 is not a leap year. So, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, and 2200 are not leap years. But 1600, 2000, and 2400 are leap years. It sounds complicated, but the regular procession of leap-years is interrupted only three times in 400 years.

Islamic Calendar (Muslim Calendar)

There is one calendar which is central to the lives of a fifth of the world's people. It is a calendar of great simplicity, yet one whose observance has taxed the expertise of astronomers and mathematicians for over a thousand years. It is the Islamic calendar, and it is based solely upon the phases of the Moon.

The Islamic year contains twelve lunar months. It is roughly 355 days long, and moves around the seasons in a cycle of about 33 years. Each year, in the Islamic calendar, the seasons begin 10 or 11 days later than in the previous year. The beginning of the month is marked by the sighting of the new Crescent Moon by a reliable witness. It is not enough to calculate the moment of astronomical New Moon. The Crescent itself must be seen in the evening sky.

Over the centuries, Muslim scholars and astronomers have attempted to establish rules to predict when the Crescent Moon is likely to be visible. Such rules include criteria based upon the age of the Moon, the height of the Moon at sunset, and the length of time between sunset and Moonset, or combinations of these.

Computers (websites) have been enlisted in the continuing search for a reliable rule, and national observatories and almanac offices are routinely asked to adjudicate in cases of disagreement. The question is especially important at the beginning and end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.

The Muslim year is shorter than the Gregorian year by about 11 days.

The Crescent Moon and Star

Under a Crescent Moon
On May 29, 1453, under a Crescent Moon, the great Christian city of Constantinople fell to the Ottomans and to Islam.

Turkish Flag
The Crescent Moon and star is an internationally-recognized symbol of the faith of Islam. The symbol is featured on the flags of several Muslim countries. The Christians have the cross, the Jews have the Star of David, and the Muslims have the Crescent Moon.

It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city's existing flag and symbol. Legend holds that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the Crescent Moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the Crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty. There is speculation that the five points on the star represent the five pillars of Islam, but this is pure conjecture.

For hundreds of years, the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Muslim world. After centuries of battle with Christian Europe, it is understandable how the symbols of this empire became linked in people's minds with the faith of Islam as a whole.


Regardless of how we mark it and measure it, TIME is our most valuable asset. I leave you with one of my favorite reminders.

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