Earth’s Orbit and Time

9 July 2015

There are changes and then there are changes.

by the way, the only fact I would consider incorrect  is that the day and night are equal at the equinox. This date varies depending on the line of latitude at which you live. True story.

Ineffable Video of Earth from Space

19 November 2014

Mercury Continues the Race

17 November 2012

Spinning through a New Synodic Cycle.

so I’m 3 days late – forgive me, I know Mercury will.

As of Nov 17 2012, all the planets have begun their Cycle 0, in the parlance of theAbysmal Calendar. We’re waiting on the Moon to get going (on Dec 13 2012) and then we’re all set for the New Year and the launch of theAbysmal Calendar.

Mercury was at inferior conjunction, which begins its synodic cycle. Only Mercury and Venus lie between Earth and the Sun. All other planets begin their cycles at conjunction, when they are on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth.

Mercury is the fastest orbiting planet, and its synodic cycle takes an average of 116 days or so. This means that any given Year will see the start of two or three synodic cycles.

Tracking the planets as a means of timekeeping is as old as staring up at the night sky and thinking, “what the hell is that?” May as well call them gods, give them personalities, tell stories about them, and include them in our collective cultures.

Here’s some background on our friend, Mercury, and his association with Wednesday.

Story of Life in Photographs

8 November 2012

I’ve been trying to find this particular TED talk since I had initially stumbled upon it. Fortunately, I stumbled on it again.

Here, Frans Lanting shares the story of life told through his photography.


check out his LIFE project

Interdependence – get some

5 August 2012

Suzuki Foundation’s Declaation More Relevant 20 Years Later.

In 1992, the Suzuki Foundation drafted a Declaration of Interdependence for the Rio Summit (now in 12 languages)

We are the earth, through the plants and animals that nourish us.
We are the rains and the oceans that flow through our veins.
We are the breath of the forests of the land, and the plants of the sea.
We are human animals, related to all other life as descendants of the firstborn cell.
We share with these kin a common history, written in our genes.
We share a common present, filled with uncertainty.
And we share a common future, as yet untold.
We humans are but one of thirty million species weaving the thin layer of life enveloping the world.
The stability of communities of living things depends upon this diversity.
Linked in that web, we are interconnected —
using, cleansing, sharing and replenishing the fundamental elements of life.
Our home, planet Earth, is finite; all life shares its resources
and the energy from the sun, and therefore has limits to growth.
For the first time, we have touched those limits.
When we compromise the air, the water, the soil and the variety of life,
we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.

Humans have become so numerous and our tools so powerful
that we have driven fellow creatures to extinction, dammed the great rivers,
torn down ancient forests, poisoned the earth, rain and wind, and ripped holes in the sky.
Our science has brought pain as well as joy; our comfort is paid for by the suffering of millions.
We are learning from our mistakes, we are mourning our vanished kin, and we now build a new politics of hope.
We respect and uphold the absolute need for clean air, water and soil.
We see that economic activities that benefit the few whileshrinking the inheritance of many are wrong.
And since environmental degradation erodes biological capital forever,
full ecological and social cost must enter all equations of development.
We are one brief generation in the long march of time; the future is not ours to erase.
So where knowledge is limited, we will remember all those who will walk after us,
and err on the side of caution.

All this that we know and believe must now become the foundation of the way we live.
At this turning point in our relationship with Earth,
we work for an evolution: from dominance to partnership;
from fragmentation to connection; from insecurity,
to interdependence.

138 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Natural Timescales

19 June 2012

the development of time

Virolution was an eye-opener. It provided a view at new theories in various branches of biology, mostly dealing with viruses, genetics, and evolution, explained in such a way that I didn’t feel that an advanced degree in microbiology was necessary. Its focus is the role of viruses in genetics, heredity, and evolution. What I found most encouraging was my own paradigm shift: viruses aren’t evil parasites. Such a judgement results from experience with viral illnesses, and fearing pandemics. Although those are certainly a part of our relationship with viruses, it is a narrow view.

In some instances, the relationship is mutualistic-symbiosis.Who’da thought?

In and among the interviews and revelations, the Virolution got me thinking about our individual, cultural, and evolutionary bodies, and how we have perceived time over the long haul. The essential elements are: the period of the Year, Lunar orbit, and Earth’s rotation; the development of light-sensing organs; our reproduction and gestation periods, and; our cultural perception of time.

The Earth’s rotation around its axis has been slowing down since its creation 4.5 billion years or so ago. Shortly after its creation, the Earth rotated once every 6 hours, four times faster than now.

  • 4.5 billion years ago – it slowed to once every 10 hours
  • 4.0 billion years ago – once every 13.5 hours
  • 900 million years ago – once every 18.17 hours
  • 400 million years ago – once every 22 hours
  • 245 million years ago – once every 22.75 hours
  • 100 million years ago – once every 23.5 hours
  • today – once every 24 hours
  • 225 million years hence – 25 hours

1 second is added to our year every 62,500 Years or so.

source: Introducing Biological Rhythms

  • 3.8 billion years ago – simple cells
  • 3.4 billion years ago – photosynthesis
  • 1 billion years ago – multicellular life
  • 600 million years ago – animals
  • 500 million years ago – fish
  • 475 million years ago – terrestrial plants
  • 300 million years ago – reptiles
  • 200 million years ago – mammals
  • 150 million years ago – birds

The genus Homo developed some 2.4 million years ago, and Homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago. As early as 3.4 billion years ago, with the development of photosynthesis, life on Earth entered into an intimate relationship with the Sun’s light (its heat is a given), one that remains fundamentally important to all living things.

The life cycles of the oceans are tied in part to the phases of the Moon (29.53 Days), in part due to tidal action (12.4 hours). The sexual cycles of a variety of marine species are tied to the Full Moon, such as the palolo worm (on which the Trobriand Islanders base their lunar calendar). On a particular Full Moon, the worms teem at the ocean’s surface in a frenzy of reproduction.

There’s little doubt that our behaviour is still tied to the cycles of the Moon, despite how much we have removed ourselves from its influence.

Human Reproduction

Pregnancy and birth are likewise tied to the Moon. Granted there is a great deal of variability from one individual to another, however, menstruation is linked to the New Moon, ovulation to the Full Moon. Regardless, we gauged pregnancy by estimating 9 lunar months (266 days), although modern estimates put it at 40 weeks (280 days), and scheduling C-sections is a step further away from this link.

Nevertheless, natural birth often takes place at the New or Full Moon.

Our mother’s tie to the timing of the Day, the Year, and the Moon is the medium in which we gestate in the watery darkness of the womb. Our first perception of time as individuals comes from our mothers, our gestation, and our emergence into the world at birth.

Cultural Time

After our birth, our emergence into the world and first breath comes our education and acculturation. At some stage, we learn about the seasons, and the calendar or calendars in use. This is the final stage in our perception of time, beyond our evolution, beyond our gestation, or observation. We are tied to a particular notion of time, whether it be cyclical, such as the Chinese calendar, fractal, such as the Maya, or linear like the Gregorian.

There is also little doubt as too the fundamental role a calendar plays in one’s life. If you remain skeptical about this last point, suggest to someone they change their calendar, and see what reaction you get. Often, at least in my experience, it is equivalent to asking someone to change their language, their religion, or their hockey team. However, as it has become second nature, very seldom does anyone have a cogent argument. It is not an easy point of view to defend with logic, because it is so ingrained it would be like asking someone to change their internal organs.

Nevertheless, the fundamental timepieces in the longer view, the Earth’s rotation, the apparent motion of the Moon, the Sun, the Planets, and Stars are what we have in common. The particular ways in which we have chosen to organize these phenomena are key to our various traditions of cultural expression, and will continue for the foreseeable future.

theAbysmal Calendar is simply one more.

185 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Music of the Spheres

17 June 2012

Planetary synodic cycles and you.

Along with all the other fun and games that go along with following the motions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, we shouldn’t forget about our friends the Planets, whirling around us like a dysfunctional family at a big fat Greco-Roman wedding.

I think that in keeping with the apparent motion of celestial bodies from our point of view on Earth (it’s all relativity, right?), I’d look primarily at the synodic cycle of the 2 inferior planets (Mercury and Venus), and the 5 superior planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus [stop giggling], and Neptune). The synodic period for Mercury and Venus begins at Inferior Conjunction, when they are between the Sun and Earth; for the Superior Planets it begins at Conjunction, when they are on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth (this is traditional).

I’m using‘s online ephemeris for these calculations.

The following table lists the Gregorian dates the cycles begin – Cycle 0 in each case is the cycle underway when theAbysmal Calendar launches this December 21st 2012. Saturn and Mercury are, appropriately enough, the two planets that have yet to start their first synodic cycle of theAbysmal Calendar, and Venus began hers with the transit (which is quite serendipitous).




Cycle 0


Cycle 1


Cycle 2




Nov 17


Mar 4


Jul 9




Jun 6


Jan 11


Aug 15




Feb 4


Apr 18


Jun 14




May 13


Jun 19


Jul 24




Oct 25


Nov 6


Nov 18




Mar 24


Mar 29


Apr 2




Feb 19


Feb 21


Feb 23


Solar Cycles

One Solar Cycle of sunspot activity takes about 23 years, and is usually divided into two lesser cycles of just over 11 years. Successive cycles begin in alternate hemispheres. Our current Solar Cycle 24 began January 4 2008, and we are entering into its peak of activity after a very slow start. I can’t figure out if the first sunspot of this cycle, Sunspot 981 for those keeping track. The previous cycle, 23 began in May 1996.

For the sake of convention, the current Solar Cycle 24 beginning Jan 4 2008 is theAbysmal’s Solar Cycle 0.

Precession of the Equinoxes

The apparent rotation of the stars due to a wobble in the Earth’s axis (and not that due to its rotation & orbit) shifts the constellations of the ecliptic by about 1 degree every 71 years or so. This means that as the Sun passes in front of the Constellation Aries starting on April 18th, it will continue to do so for another 71 years, after which it will pass in front of Aries beginning on April 17th. It will take close to 26,000 years for the Sun to pass in front of Aries starting on April 18th again.

Granted that these designations are arbitrary, and not every culture sees the same images in the stars, theAbysmal uses the boundaries established by the International Astronomical Union (at least, I hope I got them right). If my calculations are correct (let’s assume they are, because in the end, does it really matter if I’m off by a decade in the course of 26 millennia?), then the Sun will pass in front of Aries beginning on December 21st (theAbysmal New Year Day) in about 8,500 Years.

The reason to include these cycles is that they have been an intrinsic part of our timekeeping for as long as anyone can remember. These take longer periods of time into account, and are cycles that relate to how we see the celestial heavens from our home. If our great an intricate technology, which has let us peer into the furthest reaches of space should fail us, we will still be able to watch the heavens, and observe the dance of lights.

187 Days to Dec 21st 2012