Leap Years and Other Cyclical Oddities

When two cycles don’t exactly match, the result can be messy—and sometimes beautiful.

Leap years can lead to strange situations. If you were born on Feb. 29, 1996, for instance, this year you will be celebrating your sixth birthday, even though you’re 24.

Leap years occur because the daily cycle of the earth spinning on its axis doesn’t quite match up with the yearly cycle of the earth orbiting the sun. While we count 365 days in a year, the time between vernal equinoxes is actually around 365 days and six hours. That means every four calendar years we accumulate a day of inaccuracy, which is why we insert...

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