Monday, April 14, 2014

An odd thought for an idle Monday

Isn't it weird/awesome that we, and in fact most of the world, use:
  • months named by Romans (Julian calendar) and then adjusted by another Roman (Pope Gregory XIII),
  • filled with days of the week named after Norse gods (but using the Germanic spelling); 
  • and then we count down those days filled with hours, minutes and seconds using a Base 60 numbering system for time that originated with the ancient Sumerians 
  • and which is written with Hindu-Arabic numerals.

Maybe you shrug your shoulders and say "So what?" but I think it's nifty that this deeply rooted stuff which we take for granted has come from all over the place.  Realizing that the way we measure time is an amalgamation of four seven different and ancient cultures and that it's all so invisible to us is like... well, the best approximation I can come up with would be if I discovered that my skin was made in Brazil, my brain came from Taiwan, and my organs were made by the Inuit, but they were all still me and still American.

When I posted this on Facebook  (and if you aren't following me there, why aren't you?  I'm delightfully weird and random there), I received a wonderfully fascinating reply by a gentleman by the name of Logan Darklighter:
What's the connection between the Space Shuttle and Roman Chariots?

The width of two horses' asses.

Wagons were more or less standardized on the width of tackle it took to harness two (and multiples of two) horses in front of a chariot.

Roads and the ruts worn into those roads more or less demanded carriages be built to the same scale.

Later when trains were invented, in many cases they followed old roads and kept the same standards.

Thus a standard gauge engine and rail cars are based on that width between the rails. Tunnels cut for those trains to go through mountains and hills are cut so that a standard sized railcar will go through.

Morton Thiokol had to design their SRB boosters so that they'd clear through those tunnels when they are being transported by rail to Cape Canaveral. They couldn't be any wider.

Wow! That just gets me. I'm not especially disposed to the whole "We are one" interconnectedness thing, but the concept that these ancient concepts have such an important and measurable, yet invisible, affect upon my life makes me wonder about all the other bits of awesomeness around me that I just can't see.

Inevitably, that leads me to thinking about how all the iron in my blood all comes from exploded stars and then I get really mellow and zen and usually end up looking at the night sky for a while.

Don't worry, this is about as hippie as I get. I'm not going to sit in a circle and hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Unless, of course, there are ponies involved, in which case, I am totally going to make you sing.

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