2016 is the warmest!

High temperatures in summer are common in Iraq. Growing desertification — where fertile land turns dry — is pushing temperatures up. The Iraqi government has announced yesterday a two-day mandatory official holiday beginning today due to a heat wave as temperatures are soaring above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Solstice & Strawberry Moon tonight

Today, the summer solstice and full moon coincide — a rare event, indeed, that hasn’t happened in nearly 70 years, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. It’s a once-in-a-generation pairing: the start of astronomical summer and emergence of the full “Strawberry Moon.” June’s full Strawberry Moon got its name because the native American Algonquin tribes knew it as a signal to gather ripening strawberry fruit.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

Today is Friday the 13th. Most people believe “Friday the 13th” as an ominous day. It’s a bizarre thing, but apparently true, that a substantial number of us would confess to feeling slightly anxious when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday. There is in fact a name for this phenomenon — and get ready because it’s rather a mouthful — paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Time will stop for a second

Just as leap years keep our calendars lined up with Earth’s revolution around the sun, leap seconds adjust for Earth’s rotation. This kind of fine-tuning wasn’t much of an issue before the invention of atomic clocks, whose ticks are defined by the cycling of atoms. Cesium-based clocks, one kind of atomic clock, measure the passage of time much more precisely than those based on the rotation of our planet, so adding a leap second allows astronomical time to catch up to atomic time.

Winter solstice

Today, the northern hemisphere is experiencing the shortest day of the year. The winter solstice marks the shortest daylight period, but it’s not the day of the latest sunrise or earliest sunset. In the mid-latitudes the earliest sunset occurs in early December, while the latest sunrise is not until early January.

RIP TELEGRAM STOP

Arguably one of the oldest victims of the digital age, telegrams were the fastest and most reliable communication method from the 19th century until the end of the 20th century. More than the Internet and email, it is the mobile phone that has led to the demise of the original character-constrained mode of communication.

stonehenge

Winter Solstice 2012

Today is the winter solstice and the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s all due to Earth’s tilt, which ensures that the shortest day of every year falls around December 21. Some predicted that today would also mark Earth’s doomsday, thanks to a longstanding rumor that the Maya calendar ends on December 21, 2012.