Weekly Photo Challenge: Pompeii Forum

Pompeii Forum

This week’s photo challenge is all about time, and there’s nothing that captures it quite like the city of Pompeii. It was famously destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (seen looming in the background) in 79 AD. It was completely wiped off the map, and it wasn’t until 1599 that traces of it were unearthed. It wasn’t properly rediscovered until 1748, and it’s been a major archaeological site ever since. Its preserved remnants – victims and their culture, forever frozen in time – are both beautiful and tragic. A larger version is viewable here.


How Were The Pyramids Built?

Derek from Veritasium heads to Egypt to see and talk about one of the greatest wonders of the world.

Why IS It Called February?

Hey, folks. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s only a week left in February. Most people (in the states, anyway) associate this month with holidays like Valentine’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the occasional Leap Year bizarreness. With all that stuff to think about, it’s easy to overlook the month itself. Aside from being the shortest of the twelve, February is the hardest to pronounce. Seriously, try saying February out loud. Correctly.

Go on, don’t be shy.

Yeah, that ‘r’ in the middle doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. You’ve got the Romans to thank for the awkwardness. February comes from the Latin term februum, which means purification. It refers to Februalia, a purification ritual held on the 15th. Rather than scrubbing up the house, their version of spring cleaning was more about the cleansing of the self; there was a focus on sacrifices and atonement for previous misdeeds. Not exactly the Valentine’s Day you were expecting, was it? It makes sense, considering that February used to be the last month on the calendar; what better way to kick off New Year’s than cleansing yourself of the past?

The idea caught on so well that it even got its own deity. Februus was the Roman god of – you guessed it – purification. He lived in the underworld, which would’ve taken the whole cleansing thing to the spiritual level. The Etruscans also considered him a god of wealth and the dead, which means he had to share the spotlight with Pluto, the ruler of the afterlife. I’m pretty sure you can figure out who won that popularity contest. You can’t get much cooler than being King of the Afterlife. Or having a wife as awesome as Persephone, for that matter. Just think, our last planet-that’s-not-actually-a-planet could’ve been called Februus.

Oh, and watch your spelling and pronunciation. Februus could easily be mistaken for Febris, the Roman goddess of fevers and malaria. Because those usually involve a completely different kind of cleansing.

Daylight Savings Time

Hey, folks. Okay, so most people are still acclimating to Daylight Savings Time. It’s great to get that extra hour; it could be for sleep, study, etc. But have you ever thought about where DST comes from or why we use it? The knee-jerk association with its origin typically involves Benjamin Franklin. You’ve probably heard his phrase  “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. While science has proven this true beyond the scope of the old proverb, it’s still misattributed to modern DST. Let’s state that a little differently: Benjamin Franklin did not invent Daylight Savings Time.

…Oh dear. Hope I didn’t just ruin someone’s childhood.

Franklin is awesome for several reasons, but the honor of creating DST as we know it rests with George Vernon Hudson. An entomologist from New Zealand, Hudson really needed as much after-work daylight as he could get. So much that in 1895, he wrote a proposal to the Wellington Philosophical Society that proposed a time shift. He did it again in 1898. You might laugh at this man’s determination; writing up a serious proposal just so he could spend more time doing his hobby? Yeah, sure. Just imagine if your television was solar-powered.

Not so funny, is it?

It’s also worth noting that modern DST was separately conceived by William Willett in 1905. He supposedly got the idea after going riding early one summer morning and noticing how many of his neighbors were distinctly not morning people. Can you imagine having him as a roommate? In his aptly-titled The Waste of Daylight, he suggests that clocks be moved 80 minutes forward or backward in April and September respectively. Despite years of Parliament lobbying, Willett was struck down by the flu before his idea was put to law. His efforts weren’t in vain; British Summer Time is still in use today.

Modern DST wasn’t actually implemented until World War I, during which the German and Austria-Hungary Empires used it to conserve resources. It was such a practical move that all the other countries involved eventually followed suit. Since then, there have been many alterations, repeals, and tweaks to the DST. It depends on the country using it, legislation, etc. If you want to see just how ridiculously complicated this can get, check out this awesome, informative video about it here.

Oh, by the way: The reason it’s called modern Daylight Savings Time? It’s older than you think.