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This Year Will Be One Second Longer Than Usual

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If you, like most people, find yourself wishing you had more time, we’ve got good news for you: The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) has decided that on December 31, we’ll be granted one extra second. 

This bonus second marks the 27th teeny time insertion since the practice began in 1972. Like its big brother the leap year, the leap second aims to fill in the gap between human measurements of time (one day = 86,400 seconds) and atomic measurements, which go by the vibration of cesium atoms (86,400.002 seconds per day).

Our standard measurements are pretty good, if we do say so ourselves; you’d have to be some sort of chronological prodigy to notice the difference. But left unchecked, over the centuries that 0.002-second difference would pile up, rendering our clocks wildly inaccurate.

Logical though this concept may be, not everyone is a fan. It’s easy enough to integrate an extra second into an analog clock: just move the second hand forward. Computer clocks and software are a different story. These systems were built to account for leap years, but not leap seconds. In the last few years, websites like Amazon, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Gizmodo have all been caught with their digital pants down by the unexpected stretch in time. 

If you run a website or develop software, now’s the time to ensure your product can handle the leap. If you don’t, you could start brainstorming what you’re going to do with all that extra time. 

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

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A Simple Trick For Figuring Out the Day of the Week For Any Given Date
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People typically remember anniversaries in terms of dates and years, not days of the week. If you can’t remember whether you got married on a Saturday or Sunday, or don't know which day of the week you were born on, there’s a simple arithmetic-based math trick to help you figure out sans calendar, according to It's Okay To Be Smart host Joe Hanson.

Mathematician John Conway invented the so-called Doomsday Algorithm to calculate the day of the week for any date in history. It hinges on several sets of rules, including that a handful of certain dates always share the same day of the week, no matter what year it is. (Example: April 4, June 6, August 8, October 10, December 12, and the last day of February all fall on a Wednesday in 2018.) Using this day—called an “anchor day”—among other instructions, you can figure out, step by step, the very day of the week you’re searching for.

Learn more about the Doomsday Algorithm in the video below (and if it’s still stumping you, check out It’s OK to Be Smart’s handy cheat sheet here).

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Why Was February Chosen for Black History Month?
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Every February since 1976, the United States has celebrated the achievements of African-Americans during Black History Month. The month-long celebration puts those accomplishments and milestones in focus via the media and in classrooms.

But why February? Was that part of the calendar chosen for any specific purpose?

It was. Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” a label applied by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Woodson was bothered by the fact that many textbooks and other historical reviews minimized or ignored the contributions of black figures. Along with his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History—later the Association for the Study of African American Life and History—Woodson earmarked the second week in February to raise awareness of these stories.

Woodson chose that week specifically because it covered the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12). The ensuing publicity led many mayors and college campuses to recognize the week; through the years, the groundswell of support allowed the occasion to stretch throughout the entire month.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford made Black History Month official, saying that he was urging everyone to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

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